Senior-living operator hires local high school students as dining room servers

Tel Hai Retirement Community in Honey Brook, Pa., partnered with a nearby school to fill the labor gap.
teen workers
High school students are transported by van to their jobs as servers. / Photo courtesy of Tel Hai Retirement Community & Cura Hospitality

Like many foodservice operators today, Tel Hai Retirement Community in Honey Brook, Pa., was feeling the labor crunch.

So Pauline Keetley, general manager of dining for Cura Hospitality at the senior-living facility, organized a small job fair, inviting students from the local high school.

A number of 15-year-olds were interested in jobs, but Keetley and her team had to first iron out some logistics.

“We were able to recruit students [from Twin Valley High School in Elverson] to work as servers in our independent dining rooms, but had to obtain permission for Tel Hai to employ teenagers starting at age 15,” she says.

There was also a transportation problem, as 15-year-olds are not yet able to drive in Pennyslvania, nor did they have an alternate way of getting to work.

“Many 15-year-olds wanted to work but didn’t have the transportation to get here,” says Keetley. “Along with assistance from the school’s guidance counselor, Angela Morgan, Tel Hai and Cura coordinated all the approvals and clearances for the students to work and be transported to the community.”

residents drive the van

A Tel Hai resident drives the van and another is the bus assistant. / Photo courtesy of Tel Hai Retirement Community & Cura Hospitality

Coordinating the transportation was a true team effort. Keetley worked with Tel Hai’s human resources representative, client manager and clinical dietitian to organize vans and drivers to bring the students to the community. One of Tel Hai’s independent-living residents even volunteered to be a driver.

Tel Hai currently has 31 students from Twin Valley High School working as servers, and other school districts in the area have now expressed interest in having students participate. The teens are getting paid $12 to $12.50 an hour and received a $500 sign-on bonus.

“It’s a great program and an opportunity for students to advance by learning the foodservice industry,” says Keetley. “They are also being exposed to other departments within a senior-living community, which may lead to interest in potential career paths.”


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