Kean University’s Pearl
By Daris Mendez
It’s 11:30 a.m. on the dot.
The University Center cafeteria door swishes back and forth constantly as full, satisfied students hold the door open for other students who rush in hungrily. Eyes scan for an empty booth with hopes of a chance to charge their phones. The main goal, however, is to get some brain food before its time to go to class.
In the midst of waiting in the line at the Healthy Balance station, where you can get the always reliable and cheap value meal which includes a meat, a vegetable side, a starch, and a fountain drink all for $5.75, you are greeted with a smile by a woman whose name tag reads Mrs. Pearl, wearing a burgundy tee shirt, typically worn by the employees of Gourmet Dining.
“I am just a cafeteria lady,” West said shyly and demure.
Despite her statement at mere first impression, Mrs. Pearl has the kind of effect that makes people feel something special; the kind of special that makes it impossible to stop smiling for the rest of the day. Being in the food service for 15 years, Mrs. Pearl Elaine West is no stranger to the fast track routine of serving food to busy, hungry crowds.
“Busy is good,” West says, “I like serving them (the students) and getting them on their way.”
Not only has Mrs. Pearl worked at Kean University for a long time, but she also has worked a food service job at Newark Liberty International Airport and absolutely enjoyed it.
“Oh I loved it there,” West said nostalgically as she remembers her time working at the airport.
At an early age, Mrs. Pearl wanted to become a teacher and later went to school to be a lab technician. Eventually she found her place in the food service industry.
Although her love for food service is apparent, it does not come without its challenges. You can always catch her giving advice on how to stay sweet and courteous during frustrating situations. “Basically I’m a happy person anyway,” West said.
“Everybody changes, everybody has their issues but it’s not really good to bring them to work.”
Mrs. Pearl also relies on her faith to allow her to be nice to everyone.
“I also like to pray,” West said. “Like sometimes before I answer a person and they have an attitude or something like that, I have to step back and pray and then answer the question.”
Mrs. Pearl is also a believer that when you give positivity you will get it back; even when a person has not been positive to begin with. Throughout her seven years working at Kean University, one of the things that Mrs. Pearl loves the most about her job is the students.
“The thing I like most about working here is the people,” West said. “I like the students. I really like when they come back and are serious about education. One young lady came back and said ‘I only come back to see you Mrs. Pearl’,” she explained gleefully.
While mentioning the students Mrs. Pearl’s face lit up.
“I like that a lot of them are friendly,” West said. “I like their attitudes.”
Kean University students love Mrs. Pearl too! Wide eyed and glowing, Sara Abouzid, sophomore and Criminal Justice major, was absolutely charmed by Mrs. Pearl.
“My favorite thing about Mrs. Pearl is that she is the sweetest,” Abouzid said excitingly.
What originally brought Sara to Mrs. Pearl was the appealing food compared to the food in front of her. Once she got to know Mrs. Pearl’s sweet nature, she quickly became a regular customer.
Other students like Sara Abouzid have been spreading the word about Mrs. Pearl as well. Another student named Sarah Abdelnabi didn’t know Mrs. Pearl until a friend of hers told her about the value meal and how nice Mrs. Pearl was. She describes her experience pleasantly.
“She was really nice, she just told us about everything in detail like the ingredients and everything and she was open about it,” Abdelnabi said.
Mrs. Pearl is one of the employees who contributes to the kindness and warmth that exists in the Kean community. Everyone who passes through the University center is bound to come across Mrs. Pearl’s smiling face.
“I like people, all kinds of people it doesn’t matter; I treat people like if I see them I take them for what they are,” West said.