It’s easy to grow attached to the people you see everyday, and for many students it’s the workers on campus that they have grown to appreciate. While capfam appreciate the work of all employees, some specific people stay close to many people’s hearts.
If you’ve eaten in the MDR on a few occasions, then you most likely know who Sylvia Harrell is.
Every morning, students are warmly welcomed into the MDR by Harrell’s caring comments up at the front desk area.
For Harrell, just coming to the university and getting to say “good morning” or “have a good day” is what brings her the most joy.
“You never know what all of you are going through, so maybe a kind word or a smile can help,” Harrell said.
Harrell has endured a lot over the years, from losing both of her parents, to her daughter battling cancer, who is now cancer-free.
“I’m blessed,” Harrell said. “God’s been good to me.”
“Sylvia is literally the sweetest person ever,” Audrey Costanzo, first-year, said. “She really makes sure to build personal connections with students and just really make you feel better.”
It shows that kind words, no matter how small, can truly impact someone’s day.
“A kind word goes a long way,”Harrell said.
Leon Jenkins (Mr. Sonny)
Leon Jenkins, more commonly known as “Mr. Sonny,” is an employee in the MDR that works around the “Comfort Zone” food area.
Last year, Jenkins actively made rounds around the MDR, cleaning up the place while making sure to form bonds with the students eating in there.
Despite being mostly stationary, Jenkins continues to engage with students
Something that Jenkins commonly does is to have two students who don’t know each other formally introduce themselves in hopes of sparking a new friendship.
Jenkins may work as a food service employee, but he believes his purpose here is far greater.
“My main reason here really is to encourage students to do better than they’re doing,” Jenkins said. “To stay on top of their grades.”
Considering that students are paying to be at the university, Jenkins feels that students should treat college with the same care and responsibility that you would a job.
“This is your job,” Jenkins said. “This isn’t about any extra activity. This is number one.”
Jenkins spent the early part of his life growing up in West Virginia and Ohio.
His grandfather was the first to call him “Sonny” because Jenkins was like a true son to him.
He was recently inducted into the Ohio Valley Athletic Conference Hall of Fame for achievements in football, baseball, and basketball during his time at Weir High School.
“He makes sure that we’re all ok because obviously college is stressful,” Mya Menefield, sophomore, said.
“Mr. Sonny genuinely cares about everyone’s wellbeing, which I think is very unique, especially at a college campus because most employees don’t necessarily care about the students and are just there for the paycheck,” Brianna Sanders, said.
Jenkins continues to be driven by a core philosophy.
“God is love. Jesus is love. That’s what I feel. If I can share that love with as many people as possible, especially young people, then that love will expand more and more. I pray that there will be peace and harmony.”
Tiona Houpe is an opening morning supervisor that can be primarily found in One Main Cafe. Though that’s her official position, she can be found all over.
“I’m just a team player,” Houpe said. “I go everywhere.”
Houpe started working at the university around 20 years ago. Her stepfather was actually friends with Mr. Sonny, who urged her to put an application in. From there, the rest is history.
“These students bring joy to my life,” Houpe said. “I’m a mom myself and I [have] three kids. So when they get older, I want to know that somebody is out there like me that is going to help my kids along their way.”
Inside One Main, students chimed in on how they feel about Houpe.
“It’s just nice in the morning to come and see her,” Gavin LeGrand, first-year, said. “I kind of look forward to it.”
Benjamin Hemming, first-year, also talked about Houpe.
“With professors, they have to learn your name, but she went out of her way to learn my name,” he said.