my turn

Judith Calderon-Coronado, Howard County Food Service Assistant

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Judith Calderon-Coronado Burnham is food service assistant at Elkridge Elementary School in Howard County and a member of the Howard County Education Association.

My love for children, sharing kindness, and cooking for others naturally drew me to my job with Howard County Public Schools, an organization that takes pride in putting kids first. I’m grateful to work with an amazing team of administrators and my fellow Elkridge Elementary food service team members.

I come from a Latin background and immigrated to the U.S. several years ago. I’m now a U.S. citizen. I’m grateful for the opportunity to make an impact on the lives of hundreds of children every day. My roots were in childcare and dentistry before joining the food service team at Elkridge Elementary.

My son is a student of Howard County Public Schools and my husband is a graduate, so I feel a great purpose in my work. We work hard each day to ensure the kids have the best meals and clean, consistent service. The importance of school meal programs is often overlooked. How can kids have their best learning experience if they’re hungry, malnourished, or their family experiences food insecurity? This is why I’ve always pushed for adequate serving sizes and higher quality food and preparation. I’d love to see any child that needs a meal, receives one—a big goal, but very possible given all the great people working towards this.

These jobs are a calling to many of us. Unfortunately, ESP employees work each day at a very high level for less than a living wage. Our pay, while better, is inadequate to meet our expenses. In so many areas, advocacy included, we feel the work is “someone else’s job” or we’re “too busy” to pitch in, but our voices and actions are our power to advocate for fairness and change. Our silence might be easy and comfortable, but unfortunately real change is an uncomfortable process. HCEA and MSEA provide support and constantly work to achieve equality for ESP employees, which is why I am a proud member and advocate for union representation. Without our support, our unions can’t succeed. It’s up to all of us as a team.

I understand the additional challenges facing ESP workers. I think it’s time we are better represented inside HCPS management, and even administrative position. I feel we would offer unique and valuable insights in those positions, but often don’t even apply for them out of fear. With the help of amazing advocates like our local unions, I feel we can overcome these obstacles and be represented and compensated fairly.

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