Prep and Service Attendant, Williams College Dining Services
Unlike many of Forklift Danceworks’ larger-than-life shows, Served took audiences on a tour through a series of intimate performances around Williams College’s central dining facility. Viewers were broken up into small groups and ushered through kitchens, dining spaces, dish rooms, and — in the case of Prep and Service Attendant Leticia Guzman’s solo — into the employee uniform room. After the show, as audience members compared notes and shared their experiences, it became clear that Leticia’s solo — where she shared her experience immigrating from Honduras and the ways she helps make international students feel at home — was a crowd favorite. (See photos and hear the audio from Leticia’s solo in the video below!)
Now, during the Covid-19 pandemic, Leticia feels even more empathy for the students who remain on campus, either because they’re international students that can’t return home or because they have a family member who is high-risk. Talking with Forklift choreographer Allison Orr recently, Leticia conveyed how she relates to these students and shared the ways she and her fellow Dining Services staff members check in with and support the students through their brief interactions at the dining hall.
“We are doing the best we can to help the students because most of them, their families are far, far away. Some of them are worried about how their parents are or how their siblings are because they cannot go see them … I know how that feels to be far away from home and missing your parents, missing your family, missing everybody — even just missing the food sometimes. It makes it hard.”
To learn more about Leticia and her work, listen to the full interview, or read the transcript below.
Served was the first dance in Forklift’s On Campus series, a set of dances for campus employees, created through multi-visit residencies at host colleges or universities. Broadening awareness of the contributions of employees to campus life, On Campus aims to create a greater sense of community by allowing students, staff, and faculty to address equity and build connections through a community-based dance-making process.
AO: What’s your job title now at Williams, Leticia?
LG: It is Prep and Service attendant.
AO: And what’s it like to be a prep and service attendant right now at Williams College?
LG: What is different about it is that we have to wear masks, we have to keep our distance. Trying to do that in the kitchen… Sometimes it is a little bit hard. But for me, it doesn’t bother me because we have to keep our safety first and the students, too.
AO: Is there something you’d really like people to know right now about you and your fellow employees at Williams college?
LG: That we are doing the best we can to help the students because most of them, their families are far, far away. Some of them are worried about how their parents are or how their siblings are because they cannot go see them. And some of them, they really want to go see them but they can’t, they don’t want to get their parents sick. Or if they get sick, what are they going to do? They are here and they are too far. And we try to talk to them, be friendly. That’s something that we do for them. At least talk to them and try to make them feel better. Because I know how that feels to be far away from home and missing your parents, missing your family, missing everybody — even just missing the food sometimes. It makes it hard. Right now in this pandemic thing I think a lot about my family down there, but I think most of my sister, my younger sister. She’s in the high-risk people. The only thing that sometimes brings tears to my eyes is thinking, “Am I going to see her again? Am I going to see her again?”
AO: And where is she, Leticia?
LG: In Honduras.
AO: Ah, in Honduras. Okay, yeah.
LG: I told my husband yesterday that someday, when everything is okay, I would like to go see her. I’m just going to give her a big hug and tell her that I was so happy that she’s still alive, but… That’s the only thing that worries me. She’s too far. Too far and I cannot go see her.
AO: Well, I’m definitely going to hold that hope for both of you. That you get to see each other and hug tightly.
LG: That’s why I feel for the students. They are far from their family.
AO: Yeah. So you all are, you’re continuing to provide much-needed sustenance and food for these young people, or students, who, you know, don’t have any place else to go right now.
LG: In the hospital, they have to take care of the sick people. We just take care of the stomach.
AO: I like that. Any other thoughts before we finish about this time right now and your coworkers?
LG: I’m just hoping when we start the next semester, nobody’s going to be missing. That we are not going to be part of the estadística, the statistic. All of them are going to be there like we were before. I know that the new normal, I think is going to be like we are right now with masks and keeping the distance. But it will be nice to see the eyes of our coworkers.
AO: Well, Leticia, we love you so much and we’re sending much love to you and your family and all of your coworkers.
LG: Thank you. You, too, the same. And take care. And muchas gracias y fue un placer hablar con usted. Me saluda todas las muchachas y que espero verlas pronto. (Thank you very much, it was a pleasure talking with you. Tell the ladies I say hi and that I hope to see them soon.)
AO: Exactamente. Muchas gracias, Leticia. (Truly. Thanks a lot, Leticia.)
LG: De nada. Cuídate. (You’re welcome. Take care.)
AO: Tú tambien. (You, too.)
LG: Adiós. (Goodbye.)
On the Job shares the voices and experiences of Forklift Danceworks collaborators who are working through the COVID-19 pandemic. The project is in partnership with collaborating city departments and institutions. Employees spoke to Forklift choreographers while on the job.