Garland’s penchant for work, devotion to students recognized
Children, it has been said, inherit much more than the color of their hair and eyes from their parents.
Parents also can pass down their religion and politics, and in the case of Schenika Rone Garland, loyalty to a college sports team.
“My Mom was a Duke fan so I’ve been for Duke since I was a little girl,” Garland said.
That wasn’t going to change, even after she came to work as a housekeeper at Rams Village where a number of Carolina student-athletes lived.
“I told them, ‘I love you all, but…’”
The players apparently didn’t hold a grudge since they, along with students in Stacy Residence Hall where Garland now works, nominated her for a 2014 C. Knox Massey Distinguished Service Award.
Garland and her four siblings also inherited from their parents a penchant for physical work. Her father worked as a janitor at the Chatham County courthouse in Pittsboro. Her mother worked in the cafeteria in the elementary school she attended in Pittsboro.
“When I got in trouble, the teacher did not send me to the principal’s office, they went and told my mom,” Garland said. “She would tell me, ‘You are going to act like you have some sense and mind your teacher.’”
Garland, the youngest of the five, spent her summer vacation at the end of a hoe in her parents’ vegetable garden.
“Tomatoes, potatoes, green beans, corn – you name it, we grew it,” she said. “I spent my summers hoeing vegetables. I think that is why I’m not that big on eating that stuff today.”
By ninth grade, she was working as a cashier at Hardee’s. She got the job, Garland said, because her parents made it clear that if she wanted spending money she would have to earn it herself.
“They also told me, ‘You are going to have to take a bill – not a big one, but a little one like the water bill – and pay that, too.”
Garland said she did not understand their reasoning at the time, but does now. “I think they were trying to teach us responsibility,” Garland said. “When you grow up, you get a job and earn a paycheck that you’ll need to pay your bills.”
She continued working at Hardee’s even after she graduated from high school and did not leave until she found a better job at Rose’s Department Store. By the time the store closed down, she had a baby boy to care for and quickly found a job as a housekeeper at UNC Hospitals.
For a time, she worked in the hospital’s respiratory intensive care unit, but left to work as a cashier at Kerr Drug until the store went out of business.
That’s when she returned to Carolina as a housekeeper, starting at Ram’s Village in 2008.
Garland said she has no regrets.
The job may not pay as much as some other jobs, but she has found a true passion to do the little things each day that can improve the lives of Carolina undergraduates. And the recognition from the students makes that daily satisfaction all the more sweet, she said.
Wrote one student, “Schenika is why my mornings out of bed before class are so wonderful. When I catch her in the hall, she is always the sweetest person to say hello to before I start my day.”
A resident adviser at Stacy said, “Schenika is a fabulous housekeeper who cares about the residents like a mother.
She is kind, friendly, outspoken and fun to interact with on a daily basis.”
Many of the students who nominated Garland for the Massey cited both her kindness and generosity. Garland said she is not sure how you can be one without the other.
“I tell them good morning and I actually try to get to know all their names. I also want them to get to know who I am. When they tell me what is going on with them, I try as best as I can to give them my advice.”
The advice she offers is almost always the same: “‘Don’t stress out,’ I tell them. ‘Things will work out the way they should. And even if they don’t, the world won’t end. Life will go on.’”
Some students have offered advice to her in return, suggesting that she could do other things.
“I could be doing something else, but I feel like I am accomplishing something that I couldn’t do sitting behind a desk,” Garland said. “So I assure them, ‘For right now, this is what I want to do.’”