The Wilson Beacon

Former Wilson cafeteria worker has lived a life of adventure

Photo courtesy of Shakiyla Vinson

Photo courtesy of Shakiyla Vinson

Emma Harris and Liana Johnson

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At Wilson, hundreds of students receive food from the school cafeteria every day, but do any of them truly know the people that are serving them? Shakiyla Vinson, the operations support at SodexoMAGIC, the company that provides Wilson and other schools in the District with its cafeteria food, is just one of the many who have worked tirelessly every day behind the counter.

Vinson was born in Norfolk, Virginia, but did not stay there long. Her mother was a traveling respiratory therapist, so her family was constantly moving around. Vinson’s travels ranged far and wide, from Southwest Atlanta all the way to Binghamton, New York, which was her favorite place to live, aside from the snow. She moved around five different times within the span of her teenage years, living in places such as Roanoke, VA; Pittsburgh, PA; and Kingston, MO. Although she loved experiencing new places and even regarded moving as one of her favorite childhood memories, she didn’t always like being forced to start over. “It would get fun and then all of a sudden it’s like oh yeah we got to move,” she recalled.

In high school, Vinson’s parents dropped her off with her grandparents back in Norfolk, while they moved to New York by themselves. However, a year later Vinson’s mother got a contract with the military and her parents moved back to Norfolk to join them. Despite her numerous experiences in different parts of the country, Vinson’s desire to explore hasn’t waned yet. The first item on her bucket list is to “travel the world while also helping and giving back to the communities” she visits.

Shakiyla Vinson was one of four children. Her oldest sister, Ashley, is 30 years old and has one son who she “would do anything for.” She now works as a teacher in Virginia. Vinson’s 24-year-old brother, Ronald, is a music-lover and played the trumpet all throughout high school and college. Her youngest sister, Lexie, who she describes as a “diva,” is 18 years old and aspires to be a physical therapist. Aside from Lexie who recently finished her freshman year of college where she is majoring in biology, Vinson and her siblings have all attended and graduated college, and their parents are very proud. Since Vinson and her siblings spent the majority of her childhood on the move, they became very close and remain close today.

Vinson was also particularly close to her mother. She worked in the medical field as a radiologist before returning to college to pursue a degree in respiratory therapy. Vinson looks up to her mother as “a strong woman” and “admire[s] her determination to make sure [her children] had a better upbringing than what she had.”

As a child, Vinson loved to play sports. Swimming was her main activity, but she also played basketball, volleyball, and softball. Now, she occasionally swims and plays sports when she has the opportunity, but her life mainly revolves around work. When she does have free time on the weekends, she likes to “go shopping, get [her] nails done – get a pedicure, and then go to Dave & Buster’s.” In addition to these activities, when Vinson wants a break from her busy schedule, she loves to kick back and watch her favorite TV show, Martin, a sitcom starring stand-up comedian Martin Lawrence as a cocky and wisecracking radio talk show host. “Even though that show is from the 90s, it gives me a good laugh when I need it and it never gets old,” she recounts.

Vinson came to work at SodexoMAGIC through an internship she had during her final year at Virginia State University (VSU). Right before graduating from VSU with a major in hospitality management in December of 2017, she was offered a permanent position as an administrative assistant within the company and settled in DC. Vinson recounts how living in the DC area is “definitely different from what [she’s] used to.” Her former neighborhoods had been “urban but not as cluttered.” Because she lives outside of the city, Vinson hasn’t had the opportunity to visit any of the monuments or museums. Although she has driven by a few of them on her commute, she wants to see them in person.

One thing that sets Vinson apart from others is her numerous tattoos. Located on her arms, chest, back, and legs, she has eleven in total, but she often covers them up to look more professional. She got her first tattoo at eighteen and has no regrets. Her favorite is the rose on her leg which represents her family and “has [her] whole family’s name on it like a family tree.”

Although Vinson no longer works at Wilson, she continues to contribute to food services for students in the DC Area. She assists the area directors of DC by ensuring that the kitchens and the food they are serving are up to par. Vinson enjoyed her time at Wilson, but appreciates the opportunity that her new job offers to visit and work at many schools. She concludes, “I’m always on the go and I love what I do and love visiting the different schools in DC.”

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Former Wilson cafeteria worker has lived a life of adventure