By Amber Hagin
On a recent day in the cafeteria at St. Augustine’s University, some thought the beef stew had a peculiar green tint to it and that the presentation was, overall, unpleasant.
But there were no complaints about Blair Gray, a senior majoring in elementary education. She could be found among a group of student athletes and coaches joking around and being cheerful.
Students often complains about the cafeteria’s food, but they don’t seem to be as unhappy with the service. Blair Gray, for example, is a bright spot in many students’ days.
“Good morning, Sunshine! How are you?”
That’s a typical greeting students get when they enter the cafeteria. Along with their meal, they get a friendly greeting, usually with a sweet nickname, from Gray.
Gray is known not only for her attitude but also for her creative spirit. Though she is on the small side at 5’2”, she is not easy to overlook with her eclectic style that usually includes vibrant colors and beautifully crafted locks in dramatic styles.
Always smiling and giggling as she pushes a clean-up cart around the cafeteria, Gray is a source for optimism for both students and staff. She said her sunny outlook is not because she does not have troubles, but because she doesn’t let them get the best of her.
“Juggling being an RA, working in the café, and being an elementary education major and studio art minor can be hard,” she said, “but luckily I have time management skills and through it all I stay positive because if you fret the small stuff — even sometimes the big stuff — you become stressed, and stressed in my book isn’t healthy so I just manage it because I have to.”
Gray actually does a lot better than merely “manage.” She has had a 4.0 semester she’s been on both the honors and president’s list, currently holds a 3.8 GPA and is preparing for her art exhibit called Expressions.
Both Gray’s father and brother graduated from St. Augustine’s University and that was the main reason for her decision to come to the school. But having alumni as parents doesn’t mean everything about her education has been smooth. Her biggest hurdles, she said, have to do with being an international student; she is from the Bahamas.
“When it comes to international students, St. Aug is unable to help us financially unless you came in with a scholarship,’ she explained. “When it comes to renewing your visa or anything dealing with your student visa, they have insufficient documents or information to give… But the most important part is they have little resources for us when it comes to money helping international students,” said Gray.
Culturally, Gray said, Saint Augustine’s is not significantly different from her home country – even thought the education system is quite different.
“In the Bahamas, children begin primary education at the age of 5 and when you turn 6 you move on to secondary education, which lasts for another five years. Children attend a three- year junior high school course followed by a two-year senior high school course. While education is important for children between the ages of 5 and 16, many kids in the Bahamas also attend some sort of preschool or daycare that substitutes for preschool.”
It can be tiring just listening to Blair describe a busy day.
“On Saturdays I have to wake up around 7:40 to get dress and walk from Falk Crest by 8:40 to be to work at 9:00,” she said. “When I get to work I sign in, put a net over my lock’s and put my bag up, and my jacket and keys, of course. Then I go into the cooler and get the salad bar food such as lettuce and the three different salad dressings. I have to put the water well where the breakfast food is placed. I make the coffee. I place cups out for the coffee. I put out sugar, cream and tea bags; cut on the waffle makers so they can be hot … And also make the waffle mix …fill the juice machine with juices then precede to whatever station needs to be filled such as serving , clean tables , or swiping id’s in the front of the café.”
anything dealing with your student visa, they have insufficient documents or information to give… But the most important part is they have little resources for us when it comes to money helping international students,” said Gray.
Gray said she appreciates the academic opportunities she is getting at Saint Augustine’s University. She has clear career goals.
“I really love children as well as art and I figured being an art teacher would make me most proud because I would be able to put two of my passions together and watch children transform through artistic measures,” she said.
Gray maintains her positive attitude by keeping things in perspective. For instance, she said she does not resent having to work to pay her expenses. “Oh no! I believe everything happens for a reason,” she said.