When students at Conant High School entered the cafeteria for lunch, many looked forward to something more than socializing and satisfying their hunger. For some, the highlight of their lunch experience rarely had to do with food -- it was the person they could always find working the blue snack cart.
Sandi Smith, who worked and interacted with students from behind her blue cafeteria cart for 12 years, died on March 17. In honor of her legacy, students in the school's student council approached administration to create a moment of silence during the week, and a "Blue Out Day for Sandi," which took place on March 22.
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"Some of her biggest attributes were her relationships with the kids," said Mary Jo Walsh, food service manager at Conant High School. "She loved them and they loved her. She knew most of the kids by name, and remembered what they would order."
Students and staff were encouraged to wear the color blue to honor Smith, who the students affectionately knew as "The Cookie Lady," or "The Blue Cart Lady." The cafeteria offered special, extra-large cookies that were $1 each. On an average day, 130 cookies are sold during lunch hours. During Smith's day, the cafeteria staff sold 430 in her memory.
Decorative signs hung in the hallways, and one hung on Smith's blue cart that read "Sandi's Cart. A Cougar Forever." Students also created handwritten cards with their fondest memories on them, which were placed on the blue cart during lunch hours. Lastly, in addition to the moment of silence and "Blue Out Day for Sandi," students are currently passing around a petition to permanently name the cart "Sandi's Cart."
"I still don't believe you're gone," wrote a student on a card to Smith. "You've made a huge impact throughout Conant, and you'll never be forgotten. I'll never forget your kind gestures, your giving heart, and contagious great attitude. I know that you're in a better place and you deserve to be there."
Walsh said she, along with her cafeteria staff, was overwhelmed by the students' support and reaction to Smith's passing. However, she said she is not surprised because the students absolutely adored Smith. She had her regulars she could joke around with, and Walsh said this is why it's great that students came together to create this event to celebrate her life.
"She had all the patience in the world and when she was out sick for a while, I called her and said 'Sandi, the sales on the carts are down. Can you give me some of your secrets?'" Walsh recalled. "She answered by saying, 'The only secret I have is to give those kids love and care.' We loved her, and that the students did this all on their own just means the world to us."