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Applying My Passions in the Community

August 04, 2014

By: Alex Aragon, General Manager, Olive Garden

Applying My Passions in the Community

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My Olive Garden restaurant team in Irving, Texas, is proud to be part of our community, and we're always excited to find ways to give back locally. Recently, we had the honor of participating in a scholarship ceremony and provided all the food for about 75 scholarship recipients and their families. This is our second year getting involved with this ceremony and providing the food, and each year, it is so rewarding to see the students and to help them celebrate all their hard work and successes.

University Crossroads is a local organization, consisting of a network of colleges, universities, scholarship programs and organizations, dedicated to helping provide access to higher education for first- and second-generation students from low-to-moderate income households. Personally, I am incredibly passionate about helping out our youth and fostering diversity, so I was excited to partner with this organization that shares in both of these commitments. 

Catering the scholarship ceremony helped us feel like we were part of a really special time in these families’ lives. The students are getting ready to go to college and have worked very hard to get to this point. They have a lot to be proud of. The more than 200 guests had a great time and appreciated the support. I could see that my restaurant team members were proud to represent Olive Garden in the community and to provide dinner for this special occasion.

In addition to this University Crossroads event, my restaurant also just hosted the Darden Foundation Hispanic Scholarship Fund recipients who live in the Dallas area. Like my colleague at LongHorn Steakhouse, I was proud to host the scholars and their families at my restaurant, present them with their scholarships and provide dinner in their honor.

I received a great thank you letter from one of the Darden scholarship recipients, who is pursuing her dream of becoming a computer engineer and excited to represent Hispanic females in this field. She called this her lifelong dream and now is able to fulfill it due to the support she is receiving from us and the Hispanic Scholarship Fund.

My restaurant team gets so excited whenever we can get involved in the community. They are always eager to volunteer whenever needed. There is so much in our community that we are passionate about and that we try to give back to, such as local schools, firefighters and police officers. In line with our passion for diversity, we have also partnered with the Citizens Development Center (CDC) for two years to provide mentoring and job shadowing opportunities for adults with intellectual, mental health and/or physical disabilities in the Dallas area. We recently hired one man after meeting him through the CDC, and he has been a great team member and addition to our Olive Garden family.

I’m proud to be part of a company that shares the same passion for helping kids and promoting diversity that I do. Not only am I part of a company that believes in these same values, but I am also encouraged to apply these passions through community involvement.

By: Alex Aragon, General Manager, Olive Garden

Pictured: Volunteers from the University of North Texas (in green) with (from left to right) Kathleen Svinning, Alex Aragon and Pablo Sanchez at the University Crossroads scholarship ceremony

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