By Alexis Timko
Linda Wittenauer is the friendly hello in the morning as students walk to class, the welcoming smile as she asks for students’ orders and the strong mind that remembers your name after you return for your daily visit.
Wittenauer, a Youngstown native and Cardinal Mooney graduate, has been working at Youngstown State University since April of 1997.
She began as a cashier in the food court in Kilcawley Center, and after five years was transferred to the Bagel Stop in 2002, which is now Jamba Juice.
“There are days that I wonder if I should retire, but I have the students keeping me young,” Wittenauer said.
Wittenauer, 68, said she suffers from arthritis and had total knee replacements, but hopes to work for at least another two years.
Ashley Labatte, a junior biology major, said she loves Wittenauer because of how personable she makes each visit to Jamba Juice.
“Linda from Jamba Juice makes getting my smoothie fun,” Labatte said. “She always calls me by name and makes me feel welcome. She is a great employee to have on campus and always makes everyone smile with her warmth and kindness.”
Wittenauer is most known by students because she calls students by name when they order their smoothie.
“By remembering students’ names it helps me keep my mind young,” Wittenauer said. “I love to associate names with faces to keep my mind active and young,”
She said she stays active by also babysitting autistic children.
“I am naturally a people person because even out of high school I volunteered for Easterseals and worked with handicapped children, and I still babysit now for autistic children,” Wittenauer said.
She said she likes working at YSU because of the people, it blocks out the pain of her arthritis and how Jamba Juice runs its company.
Wittenauer said she loves YSU because she has lived in the Youngstown area all her life.
Wittenauer is a licensed beautician and nail specialist, but she switched to the food industry so she could continue to work when arthritis and carpal tunnel took over.
“When I first trained for this, I didn’t think I could do it because of all the different recipes for Jamba Juice,” Wittenauer said. “You have to know the ingredients, how they are nutritional, the value to the body, everything.”
Wittenauer said her coworkers made the transition easier and more enjoyable.
“My crew is outstanding. I could not do what I do at Jamba if it wasn’t for my sidekicks,” Wittenauer said. “We think as one, and we work as one.”
Vincent Camelli, one of Wittenauer’s student coworkers, has been working with Wittenauer since August of 2013.
“When I first met Linda, I could immediately tell what an upbeat and happy person she is,” Camelli said. “Working with Linda makes for a fun and energetic work environment that I can enjoy day in and day out.”
Wittenauer said YSU students and faculty have made a large impact on her life as well.
“My whole experience here at YSU has been one of love, joy, compassion and just enjoying each and every day with each and every student,” Wittenauer said.