CHEROKEE — From chimichangas to cheesy broccoli, Southeast School District’s students thanked their food service staff for keeping their bellies full.

The students — kindergarten through 12th grade — gathered Wednesday at Southeast High School, for a surprise assembly to recognize their food service staff in honor of “School Lunch Hero Day”, which is celebrated nationwide on May 3.

This event was to honor the staff who work tirelessly to prepare school breakfast and lunch for over 500 students each day.

The food service staff are: USD 247 Food Service Director Connie Kimzey, Southeast Elementary cooks are Tammie Taylor and Tammy Richey, the Southeast Junior High Cooks are Rosanna Ristau and Melody Brennon, and the Southeast High School cooks are Gaye Clark and Amber Brown.

The food service staff were told that they were going to a classified handbook meeting — and boy were they surprised, they said.

“This is a great place, this is home to me, I went to school here,” said Clark, who has worked as a food service staff member for the district for 17 years.

“It’s a great place to work,” Kimzey chimed in, “these are a great group of hard working women.”

The food service staff all agreed that they are “blessed” to work for the district and the children within it.

High school students in Janet Holden’s Family & Consumer Sciences class coordinated the surprise assembly. The students used the proceeds from the class’ monthly Take Home Meal program to fund gifts for the cooks. The students involved in this program are Katura Amershek, Jordie Higgins, Brooke Span, Jaiden Gregory, Jalynn Warner, Kylee Harrison and Alex Rice.

The gifts included customized embroidered Lancer aprons a keychain. There is also a banner which will be hung in each school cafeteria that has student signatures on it.

As a way to show their thanks, students in elementary school competed in a coloring/poster contest. The winner of the Kindergarten through second grade competition was Benson Scott, second grade. The winner of the third and fourth grade contest was Marley Stookey, fourth grade, and the winner of the fifth through eighth grade poster contest was Travis Hallam Jr., seventh grade.

There was also a poetry contest for junior high and high school students. The winning poems were from Ethan Becker, fifth grade, who wrote “Ode to the School Chicken Nuggets”, and Brody Newswander, twelfth grade, who wrote “Silent Laborers”.

The assembly showcased a video, compiling clips from students across the district expressing their appreciation, and a “pep rally” led by the 2019-2020 high school cheerleaders followed.

— Stephanie Potter is a staff writer at the Morning Sun. She can be emailed at or follow her on Twitter @PittStephP and Instagram @stephanie_morningsun.