MERIDEN — For the fourth year in a row, a public school employee has been recognized by the School Nutrition Association of Connecticut.
Karine Szymaszek, Lincoln Middle School’s cafeteria manager, received the 2021 State of Connecticut Outstanding Manager of the Year award. She has worked at the school for 20 years.
“It was awesome. It felt so good, not just for me but also my team,” she said. “Also for Meriden because four years in a row, Meriden has been recognized.”
The School Nutrition Association of Connecticut held a virtual ceremony for award winners on May 6. U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona, a Meriden native, participated.
“Karine Szymaszek shows an extraordinary passion for providing nutritious meals for students and making special efforts to celebrate them,” SNACT President Erica Biagetti said in a statement. “She has built a safe and healthy environment for members of her staff and the children she is charged with feeding.”
SNACT is a non-profit organization “committed to educating and supporting school nutrition and food service professionals to ensure all Connecticut students have access to nutritious school meals,” according to a statement.
During the summer, the school district provided students with free breakfast and lunch. Syzmaszek said it was great being able to serve the kids and work with other cafeteria employees across the city.
“We all pulled together,” Szymaszek said. “Everyday, it was kind of a challenge, We prepped 500 to 750 breakfast and lunches everyday. We all became a bigger team.”
Laura Woronick, a cafeteria employee at Lincoln, said she and Szymaszek were hired almost on the same day 20 years ago.
“She deserves it, she’s a really hard worker,” Woronick said. “She has always cared about the kids and I don’t think a better person could’ve gotten it.”
“It’s great, the kids are great. It’s rewarding,” Szymaszek added. “Even if I didn’t get the award, seeing the kids and parents. thanking us, talking to us and being so grateful, that’s the biggest reward.”