A.J.’s Winning Ways
CHESTERTOWN, MD—For Washington College students, to know Adrian “A.J.” Blake is to love him. Brightening the Dining Hall daily with his big smile, friendly demeanor and famous fist-bump, Blake has been an exemplary member of the Dining Services staff since 2009, working to keep the tables clean and stocked. This month, Chartwells Educational Dining Services recognized his great attitude and work by selecting him as the 2013 Mid-Atlantic Region Hourly Associate of the Year. (Chartwells is a food-services corporation that provides meals at Washington College and some 217 other campuses across the country.)
“A.J. is being recognized for his above-and-beyond efforts in engaging students on campus and having a positive effect on the dining experience,” wrote Kevin Lyden, Regional Vice President for Chartwells, in a letter announcing the award. “When students go out of their way to say hello to A.J. and give him a celebrated fist bump, you know he’s made a true connection with the students and campus.”
“A.J. is a textbook example of how everyone plays a role in providing great service no matter what position you hold,” Director of Dining Services Zena Maggitti wrote in nominating Blake for the honor. The Be A Star Program that manages the awards process encompasses all Chartwells accounts in the organization of more than 20,000 associates, she explains, and A.J. was selected from a select list of 13 nominees from throughout the Mid-Atlantic Region.
A.J. Blake’s employment comes through Dining Services’ close relationship with Kent Center, a local organization that provides services to adults with developmental disabilities. While the Center provides multiple levels of personalized service, individuals in the workforce such as Blake receive additional training and onsite preparation from a personal job coach. There are currently seven other Kent Center “family members” working in the dining hall along with Blake. “All of our Kent Center employees are a vital part of the dining program,” says Maggitti. “The Kent Center does an amazing job of working with our team to train, develop, and guide these individuals so that they are a success here at Washington College.”
In addition to his employment at Dining Services, Blake is known around campus for his love of Washington College sports. In September 2012, he became an unofficial member of the Shoremen Baseball team through the Adopt-A-Teammate program. He also joins the activities hosted by WC’s chapter of Best Buddies, a national organization committed to integrated friendships and employment for the developmentally disabled. In fact, his personal “Best Buddy” is club president Cara Koontz ’15, who says she can’t imagine not having him as her friend. “A.J. is funny, sweet, genuine and incredibly ‘sports savvy,’” she adds. “Seeing him in the Dining Hall brightens my day, no matter what. His quick fist bumps or recaps of the last football game always make me smile!”
“A.J. is an amazing young man and we are very thankful to have him in our Kent Center family. He is an amazingly hard worker in whatever he does, and we are so proud of him, and thrilled that his work has been recognized,” says Rebecca Urie, Kent Center’s new program manager. “Our relationship with Washington College builds and fulfills goals and dreams. The way Dining Services welcomes our family members as employees, the sports teams adopt our members, and the Best Buddies provide unending support—these are all important ways the College community values and engages adults with developmental disabilities as community members and friends.”
–Kimberly Uslin ’14