Rachel | Easterseals Arc of Northeast Indiana
Rachel serves lunch at Indian Springs Middle School in Columbia City. After she worked there as a Pre-ETS, she was hired as a substitute in food service at Whitley County Consolidated Schools.
Rachel stocks chocolate milk in a refrigerator case at Indian Springs Middle School.
Rachel measures brown sugar to add to a pan of carrots in the kitchen at Indian Springs Middle School as Jill Lemmon, food services manager at the school, watches.
As the first lunch period for middle-schoolers draws near, Rachel joins half the food service staff at the busiest table in the kitchen to work.
Cheryl Steinke, left, and Rachel laugh while trying to untangle a load of laundered aprons. Cheryl says Rachel “sent me a video on how to do this, but I haven’t watched it yet.”
Before any students show up to eat, the food service staff has their lunch in the cafeteria. Rachel, in blue shirt, eats beside Jill Lemmon, in black, who is the food service manager at Indian Springs.

The pace is fast, and the shift goes quickly. Rachel, 18, has found a good fit in a job preparing and serving food to hundreds of students.

Rachel, who graduated from Columbia City High School in December 2022, got her start in the kitchen and cafeteria of Indian Springs Middle School with help from Easterseals Passages’ Pre-Employment Transition Services (Pre-ETS). During her last semester of high school, Rachel worked for 90 minutes every weekday morning, helping to get breakfasts and lunches ready for the 600 students at the middle school.

While there, she worked with Kelsie Castle, an Easterseals Passages staff member who at that time was Rachel’s job coach. Rachel tackled a range of jobs there, Castle remembers: “She did a lot of food prep for lunch and breakfast. She took out trash. She filled drink coolers. She helped organize the coolers when new shipments (of food) came in. She ran the dishwasher.”

Rachel’s boss in the kitchen, Jill Lemmon, liked what she saw — particularly Rachel’s drive to master many kinds of work in the kitchen and serving line.

“She learned,” said Lemmon, who is the food service manager at Indian Springs. “She was really good. She worked hard. She was focused. I was really impressed; I told her that.”

Rachel performed so well there that when she graduated, she was offered work as a substitute at Indian Springs and other schools in the Whitley County Consolidated Schools district.

She had worked short stints in four other restaurants before she spent the fall semester of 2022 in the middle school’s kitchen. The difference at the middle school, her mother, Annette Bone, said, is “she knows what she’s doing, and some of her co-workers are a lot of fun.”

In other places she’s worked, having more co-workers made her anxious sometimes, her mother said. Her comfort with the staff at the middle school made her confident enough for her capability to shine.

Lemmon noted that everyone got along really well with Rachel.

That’s not surprising. Everyone putting together and serving meals is busy nearly all the time, but they’re a friendly, sometimes lighthearted team. They joke and tease and laugh. On many days, one of the women brings in treats for her co-workers, too. Theirs is the kind of team that can make teamwork contagious.

That showed in the attitude Rachel brought to her work there. Castle, her former job coach, said she thinks the key to Rachel’s success is her determination to accomplish every task promptly.

Rachel’s attachment to that work has only strengthened since she became a substitute working a day or two or three a week. Now she says the lunchroom is a place where she would be happy to work for a long time.