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Lea Burkey awarded for service with a smile

Lea Burkey was awarded the Outstanding Staff Member award of 2019-2020 for serving students in the Market @ 27th street.

Every day, cashier Lea Burkey cheerfully greets students and visitors at the Market @ 27th Street. In return, UNK student government presented Lea with the Outstanding Staff Member award of 2019-2020.

For 15 years, Burkey has lit up the Market @ 27th Street with her smile. 

“I’m so thankful that I was recognized for this award,” Burkey said. “Just the plaque is enough for me, and I’m really, really thankful that I could make [students’] day, and I could make them happy. And I think I made a difference in their life.”

Burkey began working at the Market @ 27th Street 13 years after coming to the United States from the Philippines. She said her children are her inspiration and the reason she enjoys working in at an educational institution. 

Some of her duties include opening the cafeteria up for breakfast, sanitizing tables, handing out cups and silverware, swiping the ID cards of students and managing the front desk. 

The award was voted upon by UNK student government, and it was presented to Lea at their inauguration ceremony, which was rescheduled for this fall due to COVID-19.

The Outstanding Staff Member award recognizes “excellence from any staff member on campus.”

“We thought Lea was the best person because of all that was given and all that was going on this year,” said Adrian Gomez, the chief of staff for the student body president and vice-president. “She’s just super engaging for me personally every time I go in— always with a smile, always with a laugh. I’ve had lots of good experiences literally just going to the caf and seeing Lea.” 

When students pass by, Burkey asks about their day and tells them to, “Have a good lunch.” UNK students appreciate how invested she is and often remember to thank her as they leave. 

Burkey sets a positive tone at the front desk, as well as within the Market @ 27th Street’s work atmosphere. 

“I have been here for the last 15 months, and Lea has never called out, and she pays attention to detail,” said JP Singh, general manager of Sodexo Dining Services at UNK. “She knows the people with their first names, and that is very, very rare in our business because new students come and leave. When people come in and they see the first face, it’s Lea.”

Thanks to Burkey, Market @ 27th Street visitors leave with a good meal and a brighter day ahead of them. 

“I receive some letters and nice words from [students],” Burkey said. “I made them happy, and I made their day whenever they see me because I am always smiling. The truth is, they make my day too— it’s not only them.”

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