I learned something new at Culinary Cafe and made a new friend….well a couple of new friends actually.
Incase you don’t know what Culinary Cafe is…let me explain. Each semester the students in the Hospitality program at SFA plan, prepare and cook a meal, from a different cuisine, twice a week. They also decorate the tables and serve the meal. You can buy tickets online and they usually sellout within a day or two of posting, that’s how delicious the meal and lovely the experience is. Every meal we have had has been pleasing to the eye and palate, top-notch and enjoyable.
Well, I learned why a Chef’s jacket is double-breasted. So when he cooks, if he gets messy and splatters or drips something on the front of his jacket, he just unbuttons his dirty “side” and moves it to the back and then presents his “new” clean side to meet and greet his customers. Pretty smart idea, very handy and is quickly done.
One new friend was our waiter, Duy Nguyen. He did a wonder job of taking care of us, filling our drinks, presenting our courses with polish and answering our questions about the delectable food we were eating. Our second friend is Mario Figueroa and he is our scholarship recipient for this year. He was working the cafe in the kitchen area, he prepared the Jambalaya Grits. He was able to sit the first course with us, Seafood Gumbo with White Rice, so we could visit with him. He enjoys baking, is from Houston and graduated this month. He already has a job at a Marriott Hotel in downtown Houston, in the bakery. He had a unique opportunity this past May. Through a hospitality program he was selected to go to the Cannes Film Festival in France. He worked in the food service/hospitality area, met people from all over and saw a few Stars too. He would like to experience that event again. He is a well spoken young man and we enjoyed meeting him, learning about his life, goals and dreams and wish him all the best.
Suzanne, Mario Figueroa, Bryan
Bryan, Whitney Scott, Suzanne. SFA Ax’em Jacks
Meet Whitney Scott, our SFA recipient for they school year 2016-17. We were able to met Whitney at the beginning of the year because we went to the School of Human Sciences Honor Convocation on April 12th and presented her with the Lauren Alston Memorial Scholarship in person. The SFA Scholarship Star Alumni Reception is usually when we met our recipient and is held at the end of the school term. We were excited to get the opportunity to met Whitney at the beginning of her term. We met her and visited before the start of the program and then met her parents after the program and visited additionally as a group. When I saw her I quickly noticed her James Avery ring and commented on it. I told her about Lauren’s love for JA jewelry and showed her the pieces I wear everyday that were Lauren’s. She then pointed out her JA Texas shaped necklace that had SFA engraved on it. I told her part of why we chose her was because of her essay about living with dyslexia and what she had to do to get into SFA…her grades had to be improved. Her determination to attend SFA, after a visit with her sister who is a graduate student, impressed me and I wanted to reward her for her hard work. She said she is enjoys math and is great at it but her spelling is bad…she gets her letters messed up but not her numbers. We told her being able to balance her checkbook is an important skill in life…lol. Whitney asked me about Lauren and wanted to know more about her…that warmed my heart. She told me she was interested in being an event planner and wanted to know what Lauren had wanted to do…event planning. She and Lauren shared many things in common…love SFA…go Jacks, James Avery jewelry, Chinese food, event planning and both were super friendly and smiled a lot. We really enjoyed meeting Whitney and her parents, who came from Ft Worth…her Dad said there was a connection and that it felt like we had known them for years. We will see Whitney again when she works the Culinary Cafe next spring. Her thank you note said she would make us proud for honoring her with Lauren’s scholarship…I have no doubt she will do just that.
Suzanne, Bryan, Whitney and Dr. Judy Abbott, Dean of College of Education
Last week we went to the School of Human Sciences Honors Convocation at SFA. We had the pleasure of meeting one of our two recipients for this school year. We were able to meet Mr. Brandon Chaddick. He was there to receive another memorial scholarship for this coming school year. We were able to visit with him after the ceremony. His parents were there and we “stole” him away for a little visiting and pictures. He was so happy to meet us as he hadn’t had the opportunity yet to meet any other of his donors for this past school year. He was such a humble and thankful young man. He smiled a lot and told us many times during our conversation how thankful and appreciative he was for receiving the Lauren Alston Memorial Scholarship. Brandon will be a Senior this coming year and will be working the Culinary Cafe this fall where we plan to catch up with him again during a dinner or lunch on campus. Lauren also participated in the Culinary Cafe class for a semester. If you ever have the opportunity to go you will be quite impressed. The students plan the menu, help cook, serve the meal and decorate the tables according to the theme of the meal. The food is always delish and visually appealing, the students do a fantastic job.
Below is just a few paragraphs from his last thank you letter dated Jan. 5, 2016.
“As I approached the Fall 2015 semester at SFA, I was a bit unsure of how I would be able to afford all of my classes for the semester, as I was placed with the formidable task of funding and completing 16 course hours. Fortunately, I was given the ability to afford my classes through scholarship funds donated by generous individuals such as yourselves. Thus, after receiving the scholarship, I made sure that the resources provided to me would not go to waste, I buckled down, studied hard, and for the first time in two semesters, received an “A” in all of my courses.
Overall, my experiences in my last semester proved to me that hard work pays off and can sometimes even be rewarded. It truly is the least that I can do, as the amount of money provided by your donation has been both substantial and vital to my continued education.
Once, again, I am genuinely humbled by having the Lauren Alston Memorial Scholarship bestowed upon me and I truly hope that I am continuing the make you proud of my achievements, which would be far more difficult to attain had I not been provided with financial assistance. From the bottom of my hear, I am truly thankful.” Sincerely, Brandon Chaddick
We were unable to attend this year’s scholarship reception at Stephen F Austin State University that was held in late March. We had picked two deserving young ladies and we wished we could have met them in person to learn more about their dreams for life after graduation. Good Luck Ladies.
One, Samantha Harris, graduated in December 2014 and we wish her well in her post college life.
Ms. Samantha Harris
The second, Adrianna Damani, will be graduating with honors in May. Adrianna is deciding if she wants to “garnish her degree” by attending either Johnson and Wales University or Auguste Escoffier School of Culinary Arts. Either of those courses will allow her to finalize her degree in baking and pastry arts. Her goal is to one day own her own bakery.
Ms. Adrianna Damani
Sunday, November 16th, 2014 was a bitter, cold day in Nacogdoches, Texas… but that didn’t stop them… they bravely faced the cold journey ahead… ready to start running so they could get warm. They had a purpose… a reason… and a goal. Some of the runners had different reasons for the race but they all had the same goal. Some of the reasons were… to challenge themselves… to get into better shape…to try a new sport… to finish the race. Their common goal was to raise funds for LAF.
Our friend Ragin contacted us about 2 months before with an idea to raise funds for LAF. There was a half marathon run scheduled for November in the Piney Woods of East Texas and he was gonna participate. Ragin is from this ‘neck of the woods’ but has been living in the Hill Country for a while… and was eager to run back home. Part of the race was to be run through the beautiful campus of SFA… and he thought of Lauren. He wanted to invite friends to join him and raise funds for LAF. Soooo… he gathered friends and they all gathered pledges… so much $$ per mile… or so much $$ for completing the race. They worked together to name the team… Peace, Love, LAF and to design t-shirts for the race. One ran the half marathon… that is 13.1 miles folks… and the others ran the 5K… 3.1 miles and that is a big feat for a new runner. They donned their t-shirts and even had some of the other runners ask the meaning behind the shirt. They also pointed to their shirts along they way to make sure the “official race photographer” got shots of their shirts. And of course as they passed other runners and spectators along the route…they too saw the logo and website address for LAF. In the days following the race we saw an increase in the number of visitors to our website. I’m proud of all these friends…old and new…for enduring the cold, wet conditions that day… for finishing the race!!!… for raising funds for scholarships… for helping us spread the word about LAF. Thank You Team Peace, Love, LAF you raised over $600.
Team Peace, Love, LAF
Half Marathon: Ragin Cornelius
5K’ers: Cecilia Cornelius, Russell Harvey, Jordan Johnson, Keith Johnson, Kevin Lambing and Eddie Pepper
Team Support: Sean Dupre’ and Paula Korn
We chose two recipients again this year for the Lauren Alston Memorial Scholarship in Hospitality. Adrianna Damani and Samantha Harris both impressed us with their heartfelt essays and excellent grades. Although they both sent eloquent thank you notes I wanted to share Samantha’ s note with everyone as she will be graduating in December.
August 22, 2014
Mr. and Mrs. Alston,
My name is Samantha Harris, and I am the grateful recipient of the Lauren Alston Scholarship. I am a Hospitality Administration major heading into my senior semester at Stephen F. Austin State University, from Ft Worth. After graduation in December, I plan on moving to Lewisville, Texas with my husband, and pursuing a career in event management.
2014 has been a year of ups and downs for me. In April, my husband and I decided to get married at the Fort Worth Medical Plaza ICU when my dad’s health took a serious decline, and we lost him shortly after. The loss I felt, and still feel, is indescribable. Afterwards, the thought of leaving my mom and sister behind to come back and finish school was almost depressing. I even considered transferring to a school closer to home, but I knew my dad would want me to come back and finish, especially so close to graduation. While growing up, my grandfather didn’t give my dad the support he needed to go to college expecting him to follow in his footsteps and take over the family air conditioning business. It was something my dad regretted immensely because it put up so many road blocks as he went through life. Because of this he always reiterated the importance of a college education, and that no matter what, he would make sure that we both had the ability to make a living and support ourselves.
Your support through this scholarship for my last semester is not only allowing me to fulfill my dream of a college degree, but also my dad’s dream for me. You have taken a weight off both my shoulders and my mom’s, and for that I am eternally grateful.
With great appreciation,
And Samantha that makes us happy also. We strive to reach out and help others as Lauren did. We give scholarships in her memory, to give back as she also received scholarships, to help others fulfill their dreams of a college degree like she was able to achieve and also so she isn’t forgotten. God bless you on your life’s journey and please lend someone else a hand along the way.
Suzanne Alston, Mallory Vipond and Bryan Alston
We enjoyed meeting Mallory Vipond who is the 2012-13 SFA Lauren Alston Memorial Scholarship recipient. She is a lovely young woman who smiled frequently. When we first met her my eyes went to her pretty face and then straight to her neck…yes, her neck. Mallory had on the exact same James Avery cross that I wear everyday that was Lauren’s and she wore almost everyday too…and she had it on when she had her accident. Mallory’s mom gave her the cross necklace when she graduated from high school…another God wink.
Mallory will be a Senior this fall and is leaning toward being an Event Planner but after taking some Hotel/Motel management classes she enjoyed…she is investigating that avenue also. She is from New Braunfels and after visiting with her we found how much we have in common and that we might could have “run across” each other before. We go to the New Braunfels area often and we all liked eating at some of the same restaurants…going to Gruene Hall to listen to live music… the same bands and local stores. Mallory told us about going to interview at the SFA Alumni Association for a summer job and that they told her about Lauren and how the scholarship was started. She had tears in her eyes as I told her about the matching James Avery cross we both wear. I told her what a God wink was and how it confirmed we had picked the right recipient…her. We told her to stay in touch and we wished her all the best life has to offer.