Volunteering at this event with nine other fellow Darden General Managers allowed me to see first-hand the great impact College Summit can have. Their mission is to connect low-income youth to college and a career through peer leadership and custom curricula. Every single one of them was motivated to go to college, and for many of these students, they will be the first in their families to attend.
The students came prepared by researching Darden Restaurants and bringing resumes and cover letters for us to review. Throughout the event, we gave feedback and helped students craft final versions of the documents. Then we sat down with students individually for about 20 minutes and conducted mock job interviews. After each interview, we provided feedback to help them in the future.
I was amazed by the tenacity of these high school students who were actively trying to create opportunities for themselves. One girl I had the chance to interview had just lost her brother and was going to try to get a job while going to college to help her mother support the family. Many of the students would be working to pay for their higher education.
As I interacted with the students, I got to share my story about how I became a General Manager at Olive Garden, a position that many of the students said seemed like an impossible goal. When I first entered the workforce, I only knew how to speak Spanish, but I knew that if I worked hard to learn English and do my job well, I would succeed. I also told the students about the value of finding a great company that believes in its people and helps its people develop. Darden believes in opportunity for women and minorities, and 16 years later, I’m still with Olive Garden. I hope I showed them that with hard work, dedication and the right mentors, anything is possible.
This was my first time volunteering at a College Summit event, and in those brief two days, I developed a true caring for the students and College Summit’s mission. I’m so proud of these students and I’m sure their futures are bright.