It’s 12:45 on a Tuesday afternoon in the Café; the lunch rush is in full swing. A band plays live music while a steady stream of students file through the doors.
Kristy Norton is a whirlwind of activity. She greets every student by name. She puts one bowl of noodles in the pot and immediately starts prepping another, wiping up any misplaced food as she goes.
The first bowl is done; she serves the pasta on a student’s plate.
“Thanks Kristy,” the student says, “Have a great day!”
On to the next student.
This is an average day for Norton. She works in the Café on High Point University’s campus and manages a station that offers pasta, burritos and stir fry on a rotating basis. She sees these students every day.
She’s one of many caring faces who lets students know that here on the HPU campus, they’re home.
Forming a Bond
Norton joined HPU in 2008, but the High Point native knew about the university well before then. Working at HPU is a family affair; Norton’s grandmother Geraldine worked with the Campus Enhancement team; her sister Sharida runs the sandwich station; and her mom “Miss Cathy” brings joy to students who visit the Silver Line Diner in North College Village.
She’s on a first-name basis with many students who frequent the Café.
The students know Norton, too – her friendly smile, her eagerness to serve, and her uncanny ability to know everyone’s “usual.”
Students like Bridgett Hess.
“Kristy knows my order,” says Hess, a senior from Lexington, Virginia. “I don’t have to tell her anymore. She sees me and says, ‘Hey Bridgett,’ and starts making my alfredo pasta and asking me about my life. She asks me about my internship – my friends don’t even remember that! She’ll say, ‘I know you had that interview today, how did that go?’ or ‘You applied to that job last week, any news?’ And I tell her, ‘Yes, it went great! How did you remember?’ And she says, ‘Well, you told me about three weeks ago, and I just wanted to see how it went.’
“She remembers who you are as a person.”
It’s Norton’s dedication to service that helps rank HPU Dining among the best in the country. But it’s also part of what makes HPU an institution focused on values-based living and holistic education. From the classroom to the dining halls, to residence halls and all across campus, HPU weaves students into its family.
Norton says her favorite thing about her job is getting to see the students every day.
“I love working here,” she says. “If I’m having a bad day, or running late, or anything, the students always make me feel better. Everybody is so nice.”
But Norton feels her job is not just about food; it’s about ensuring students are cared for each day. When Winter Storm Jonas left the entire eastern seaboard crippled under feet of snow in January, Norton and her team across campus reported to work. They were there for students in a time of need.
To Norton, her job at the pasta station is to be a caring hero, model and mentor to students. To teach values. To make an impact on people’s lives and getting to know the story – the student – behind the pasta bowl.
That’s what the HPU family is all about.
The Little Things
It’s 3:30 on a Tuesday afternoon in the Café; the lunch rush is over. Norton takes a deep breath and begins prepping for dinner.
“Sometimes it is hard, just trying to speak to everybody,” she says. “When it’s a long line, and I have three pots going, trying to talk to each person, and not get burned. That’s the challenging part.
“But I love my job. I’ve been here for a long time. And I wouldn’t leave unless they kicked me out,” she laughs.
Norton’s constant care and attention to detail make a huge impact on students like Hess.
“One time, I was having problems with a friend,” Hess says. “Kristy knew I was struggling with it. She asked me about it and said, ‘How are you feeling, do you want to talk about it?’
“You know, that’s not her job. Her job is to manage that station. But she cares about my personal life. She was asking me about my friendship and giving me advice on how to handle it, and related it back to her real life. That means the world to me.”