Smiles and Bagels: Suki and her Motherly Wisdom

Courtesy+of+Olivia+Dillon+%2721

Courtesy of Olivia Dillon ’21

It’s been a rough week. You’ve had lots of majors and have skipped lunch multiple times to study. Whenever you do so, you always get a quick bagel from the cafe before heading back to the stacks. On the third day of this routine, you turn to find Suki Johnson with her beaming, smiling face, holding out your favorite bagel order already made for you. You find yourself feeling happier than you have felt all week, say thank you to Suki, and continue onto your day feeling a great deal better.

At Groton, Suki is beloved for her amazing bagels, her heartfelt smile, and her warm, personal connections with each student. “My passion is that I love all the children: that’s the goal,” says Suki. Suki’s love of kids has been a part of her for a long time. Before coming to Groton three summers ago, she worked in the public school food service for sixteen years in California. 

Through her job, she has found the thing that she loves the most: connecting with kids on a deep, personal level. “Sometimes people when they’re looking for a job, you know you go and you’re thinking what kind of job will I make money for myself? I think money is very important, but you need to find a job that you have a passion for. I know we need money every day to survive and pay the bills, but . . . if you only look at the money that way and you don’t really enjoy your job because of the money, and it’s not worth that. That’s me,” she says. 

She also shares this message of the importance of doing a job that you love with her own family. “And I teach my twenty-five-year-old son that too . . . So I always told him, ‘you follow what your heart tells you’ . . . you always have to find the passion for yourself. That’s why I love the school because I have the passion for any student or kid of any age. I really enjoy being with them together,” says Suki. 

Although Suki loves working at Groton, this year she really misses the bagel café, which is closed due to the pandemic. “ I love having the conversations with you and other students and I’m so happy and so thankful because all you students trust me, and then you come and tell me about their personal things because they trust me . . . I hope that when the cafe comes back and then I can see you guys and come and talk to me again,” Suki says.

Suki is well-known for her motherly characteristics and just how much a nice talk with her can mean during a difficult time. She has even had parents come to talk to her at Parents Weekend to thank her for being a prominent figure in their child’s life.  “They make me feel so good . . . I just felt like you guys are at home when you come in the cafe and come into my kitchen. I remember two mothers told me . . . ‘Thank you, you know my daughter told me that she was really happy . . . when sometimes she would have too much pressure on her and she would come in the kitchen and talk to you and then she would feel at home’. . . like when you go down to kitchen and talk to the mother,” Suki says.

This maternal connection with students is what brings Suki such joy in her job. “So you know it makes my heart melt so much and feel so good so I’m so happy I can help people. That’s what I love about it,” Suki says.

A favorite Suki memory of many students is walking up to the bagels cafe and having Suki already know their order. When describing how she always remembers people’s orders, Suki says, “I put my heart and so I know what you like what you don’t like because you know I just want them to feel in a home.” “That’s what shows that I care,” she says.

Suki can’t wait for the café to open again but until it does, she still enjoys seeing everyone in the grab and go area. For it is seeing students which brings her heart the most joy. She encourages everyone else to find something that brings them a similar amount of joy. In Suki’s own words: “Follow your heart — very important.”