Transforming from a student worker to Director of Food Services for Aramark at Winston-Salem State University, LaKeith Stevenson continues to dedicate himself to leading with a passion for service and striving to make his community a better place for all.
LaKeith Stevenson (he/him), Director of Food Services for Aramark at Winston-Salem State University, is not only in the business of hospitality and food service, but the business of giving back as well.
As a first-generation college student, LaKeith started working in Aramark’s Student Management Program. Today, he’s grown into a role managing dining and residential operations at universities and is the founder of his own nonprofit organization to help his local community. No matter what hat he’s wearing, LaKeith dedicates every day to bettering the lives of those around him and leaders of the future.
“I want to make all people from all walks of life become better. We as a nation can still become better, but we cannot become better by working in individual groups. We must become transformers and transform lives to make this place better for our future. Our future is our youth. I want to be in a position where I can help individuals find their way and give them a roadmap to go and capture that.”
Having worked nearly two decades with Aramark on various college campuses in North Carolina, Stevenson has found that working in a university environment allows him to engage with students and provide nourishment that leads to tremendous results.
“I’m able to bring people from all walks of life and all backgrounds to the table, and I’m able to have them spark a conversation about how we can change the world. How can we all be ourselves but also work together? I feel like I can do that by providing great food. That’s why I like being at a college campus and working with kids. A lot of people don’t realize that we hold the key to them becoming successful. Good, healthy, balanced food and a welcoming environment can spark their minds and lead them to go off and become great leaders. I see it every day.”
Continuing to serve his alma mater of Winston-Salem State in more ways than one, Stevenson has brought his passion of nourishing students to the classroom, where he is able to offer advice and help students, like himself when he was in college, navigate a new environment.
“I’m always mentoring kids. A provost at Winston-Salem saw the mentoring I was doing on campus, and she wrote a grant to allow me to go into classrooms and teach as an adjunct professor, which I still do now. I teach freshman students how to transition to the college life. Through teaching and the mentorships that I hold with students on campus, I’m able to have conversations and speak to students that professors or faculty members are sometimes unable to.”Supported by Aramark in his efforts, Stevenson continues to be heavily invested in providing services and resources that can make an impact in the greater Winston-Salem area. He established his own nonprofit, Sources United, with the mission of bettering his community, positively changing the world, and ensuring that all have an equal opportunity to thrive in life.
“At Sources United, we figure out what’s needed in the community, find resources that individuals in the community may be lacking, and bring those resources back to the community. We work with kids from the age of eight years old and all the way up and have a lot of programs to help young students transition from an inner-city life. Eventually, when it’s time for them, we put them on a path so they can get into college.”
To learn more about LaKeith’s experience working in higher education, his passion for community involvement, and how he inspires his coworkers, check out the Q&A in this post!
— LaKeith Stevenson, Food Service Director for Aramark at Winston-Salem State University
Hear more from our conversation with LaKeith in the Q&A section below.
What inspired you to work in the university environment?
I'm able to spark individuals’ minds. If the food is good, and the customer service is good, we can bring people from all walks of life together because young minds are going to be the pathway to spark change in the future. If I become a great leader and become able to provide a great food service program to these individual students, I’m going to be able to bring together people from all walks of life and all backgrounds to the table. I’m able to help them spark a conversation about how we can change the world.
How has Aramark empowered you to get involved in your community?
At Sources United, we help put students on a path so that they can get into college. There are some individuals that want to go into the culinary program. With Aramark, we did a partnership with the Goodwill program in Winston-Salem. There’s a food bank in Winston-Salem that teaches a twelve-week course in basic culinary skills, and students get a certificate. When they graduate, they have to do an internship. In this partnership, Goodwill pays half and Aramark pays half. Once they graduate their course, they come and do an internship with us at Aramark, where we often hire them as cooks. They go through the twelve-week course. They get a certificate. It’s a whole ceremony. We, as managers, show up and speak on their behalf, congratulating them. They’re then able to come back into our operation and move from dishwashers to our elite cooks.
How do you put paying it forward into action in your career?
Without Aramark, I wouldn't be here today. I wouldn’t be able to help so many people in the community that I help. I’m a first-generation college student and understanding the path that I took to get to college and earn a degree helps me give back. I take this job very seriously because my mother used to be a food service worker. I take this job very seriously because I remember times when my mother’s check was short. Sometimes she worked extra hours, and sometimes her boss didn’t input her hours correctly. We had to wait, do without, or miss certain things. I understand that struggle so well because my mother went through that same struggle. Sometimes I’m the only support these employees have, so I take it an extra step because I understand that food service checks provided me something to eat and helped me get to college.
Do you think Aramark embodies the entrepreneurial spirit?
To me, Aramark is like ‘The Field of Dreams.’ If you build it, they'll come. If you build yourself up, become the best you possibly can become, and work to do everything the right way, people will come and watch. People are going to want to come and ask, what are you doing? What do you do that makes your place creative? What makes you do what you do? Once again, I'm an African American kid, first generation college graduate. Nobody in my family was a business operator overseeing projects. That's my background, and I'm making it. I'm still striving because of my hard work. Everything I wanted at Aramark I was able to get.
What is your approach to leadership at Aramark?
I want to motivate. I want to help as many people as I can while working with Aramark. I want to leave a legacy and say, “I did it the right way and helped people along the way.” I don’t want to ride this ride by myself. I want to make sure that I bring up and coming managers with me. It doesn’t matter what their background is – if they believe in what we’re doing and the service we provide, I’m here to help them along the way.
Job ID: 196913
Job ID: 332929
High Point, NC
Job ID: 336237
September 29, 2021
Transforming from a student worker to Director of Food Services for Aramark at Winston-Salem State University, LaKeith Stevenson continues to dedicate himself to leading with a passion for service and striving to make his community a better place for all.Read More
August 18, 2021
To James Johnson, Concessions Manager in our Sports & Entertainment line of business, a smile is the key to creating unforgettable hospitality experiences. For nearly 18 years, James has been working in arenas and coliseums across California.Read More