By Victoria Lewis / Staff writer
Often coined as Hutchinson Community College’s grandmother, Carolyln Blackburn recently celebrated 25 years of service with Great Western Dining, of which she has served in the HutchCC cafeteria for 12 of these years.
When asked what keeps her coming back year after year, her immediate answer was ‘the students’
“You find some of the kids who just really leave an impact on you – the ones that like to joke around and stuff like that,” Blackburn said. “It’s just all good memories.
“You’ve got the ones who are kinda shy and you try to get them out of that shyness, but there’s so many good kids, all of you are just good kids.”
She said that even with the recent renovation of the cafeteria inside Parker Student Union, “the kids basically are the same – a lot of different personalities and a lot of fun and a lot of good kids.
“(They) make my day.”
It would seem the feeling is mutual.
Current HutchCC student and worker at the Dragon’s Brew Cafe next to the cafeteria, Austin Baker is a Blackburn fan.
“The thing I love most about Carolyln is how warm and genuine she is every time she comes to wor,” Baker said. “She makes sure to make every student who walks through feel loved.
“Throughout the multiple years I’ve been here and spent with Carolyln we’ve had many conversations about our hometown. we come from the same area or at least know people in the same area so that was always really cool.”
Blackburn said she enjoys meeting the different cohorts of students every year, and often gets quite close with the kids she greets every mealtime.
“You know when they’re feeling bad and you know, you try to get them feeling good – make them have a good day not a bad day,” Blackburn said. “You don’t want anybody to feel bad when they come in.”
Blackburn started out at Great Western Dining in Garden City as an assistant manager, and then transferred to Seward County Community College to become the supervisor, overseeing their cafeteria. After this, she was based at the Kansas Law Enforcement Training Center, when she finally transferred to HutchCC.
“Here at the college, everyone is like family, all the faculty and staff are just family, and you can’t go very many places that’s like that,” she said of the HutchCC community.
Brenda Roberts, the Food Service Director at HutchCC’s cafeteria, says working with Blackburn is fun and that “she’s got an amazing attitude, her spirit is amazing and the way she connects with the students is really cool.”
One fond memory Roberts has of the last nine months she’s worked with Blackburn comes from when Roberts started.
“When I took over as director (and) she told me a story about if anybody doesn’t like what I’m doing, just tell them there’s a new sheriff in town and this is how we’re doing it,” Roberts said.
Blackburn is the embodiment of the saying ‘time flies when you’re having fun.’ She has enjoyed her journey with Great Western Dining and says it has been “worth it” as she earns and celebrates her 25th-year-of-service badge.