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Working for food proves to be tough

When I see people with cardboard "Will work for food" signs, I wonder, does anyone ever hire them? And how hard are the jobs they are offered?

This month, I found out. Without even wearing a sign, I worked for food twice. And was it ever hard!

First I judged the DECA regional competition, where marketing students from the Distributive Education Clubs of America displayed their knowledge of marketing principles and skill in thinking on their feet.

I was assigned to Sports and Entertainment, which is hardly my forte. When I discovered a fellow judge, Nate Gibbs, had been a football coach for the University of Minnesota, I really felt intimidated.

But sports had nothing to do with the evaluation. The students had to think up ways to improve attendance at an amusement park, then present their plan in a mock interview. What a tough job. These kids were so good! We spent more time evaluating them than we did interviewing them. The scores were close, but Meghan Heyburn of Parkview High School took first place.

Then came the best part - all the food I'd worked so hard for. We had appetizers from Los Hermanos and Zaxby's; sandwiches from Subway, Blue Rooster, and Atlanta's Finest Catering; chili from Ted's Montana Grill; desserts from Always Fresh Market, Killian Hall, and Taylor Made Gifts; and lots of goodies from Kroger and Publix.

Next I judged Parkview's Poetry Out Loud competition with a real poet, Kodac Harrison ( who frequently performs poetry on stage. Since the closest I've ever come to reciting poetry onstage was when my cheerleading squad led cheers at pep rallies, I could see this would be another tough job.

As the 14 contestants recited their poems, I didn't know how to judge them because they were all great. My scores were so high, I thought I was doing something wrong. But during our break, Kodac said, "I've judged lots of contests, but never one like this. These kids are all so good! This is really hard work."

When we totaled our scores, we discovered a six-way tie. When the finalists, Shalini Ramachandran, Erin Stacer, Gabrielle Mirville, Linda Liu, Bethany Weiler and Alex Wharton performed for the second time, they were even better. Their scores were still unbelievably close, and it was tough having to pick only one.

Since Kodac was the real poet, I thought he should assume the really tough job of announcing the winner, Shalini, who claimed a narrow victory with Maya Angelou's "Still I Rise." Then Kodac and I claimed our wages of sandwiches, fruit and a bottomless basket of chocolates.

As it turned out, working for food was its own reward.

Susan Larson is a Lilburn resident. E-mail her at