The Man, The Myth, The Legend: Cafeteria Man, Minh Le

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Minh Le pic

It only took six months for Minh Le, a Vietnamese immigrant, to make a positive impact at Doane by brightening student’s day in the cafeteria. 

“I tried my best to please the students. That is my duty and my responsibility” Minh Le said. 

Le, a student at Southeast Community College, is no longer at Doane because of the requirements for his Human Services Program. Like internships, Le is only expected to serve various places for a predetermined amount of time. He is now serving the homeless at a homeless shelter. Prior to that, he worked at an elderly home. But Le still holds Doane near and dear to his heart. 

“I will never forget the six months I worked at Doane,” Le said. “I like to experience and interact with everyone, and Doane students gave me that opportunity.” 

Grateful and connected to Doane, Le is trying to earn money and scholarships to come back to Doane as a student in the near future, he said. 

“I started working at Doane in August of last year and, during that time, I was only in the United States for eight months,” Le said. 

“Being an immigrant with limited English. I have learned a lot from students,” Le said. 

“During my job, greeting, smiling, and interacting with students gave me pleasure. I see the freshness and vitality of the students,” Le said. “I am a student myself, I also live away from family like them and probably face the same pressures like family, love, study, financial, as the students.” 

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“I understand and tried to make the students feel comfortable when they came into the dining hall,” Le said. 

And he did. 

Junior Nicolas Arce said that Le’s work ethic and positive attitude left a lasting impression.

“He was always happy and friendly,” Arce said.  

Sophomore Jacob Hruska, who was also one of the students who had his ID scanned by Le every day for lunch, stated that Le’s presence and smile had a contagious vibe, he said. 

“He had this energy to him, he honestly put a smile on everyone’s face whenever you saw him, “ Hruska said. “If he can be that happy during anything, why can’t we all?” 

Even Though Le’s typical interaction only lasted a few minutes, it is what he did outside of his job description that made Le so memorable. 

Sophomore JJ Illtz said that Le smiled at him every time he entered the cafeteria, he said. 

Sophomore Salvador Delgadillo cites Le’s genuine interaction with students and wanting to get to know them was a trait that set him apart from other workers, he said. 

“For the first couple of months, he would call me by a different name and he was determined to get it right,” Delgadillo said. “The day he got it, he laughed and told me he finally got it.” 

Even when off the clock, Le still made an effort to know and care for Doane students. Sophomore Parker Hansen remembers distinctly the moment when Le brought him a Vietnamese drink to help him feel better when he was sick, he said. 

“A couple of weeks into the school year, he asked for my number so that I could help him with his English,” Hansen said. “When I was sick, he noticed that I had not come into the cafe that day and asked why I didn’t show up. I told him I was sick. So he walked in the cold to bring me a Vietnamese tea.” 

“He was one of the most hardworking and passionate people at Doane, truly,” Hansen said. “His presence definitely made the environment more enjoyable to be around.” 

When asked what advice he would give Doane students, Le said, “before bed, I often ask myself, have I done anything for others today?”

“I have always applied this quote ‘let us always meet each other with a smile, for the smile is the beginning of love.’” Le said. “ I hope that students continue to smile. I am sure that it will change their life.” 

Although gone, Minh Le remains lingers in the memories of Doane students. From a non-verbal swipe, to a small conversation, to receiving homemade Vietnamese tea; Le’s aura remains unforgettable. 

 Reporters Chandler Farnsworth and Logan Fetzer contributed to this article.