Story Behind the Smile: Sakina Troyan


Elena Wright

Sakina Troyan, known as “Nina” by students, standing at her cashier station in the State High food court.

Elena Wright

Big crowds, line cutters, occasional spills, and suspicious apple slices – all everyday State High cafeteria experiences. For breakfast or lunch, thousands of students make their way through the food court daily. Whether it’s the bagels that students love or the soup and sandwich, the cafeteria staff work to ensure students are content and well-fed. 

A simple “good morning” can brighten anyone’s day. Always with a smile, Sakina Troyan can be seen greeting students and working as a cashier during breakfast and lunch. Troyan, who goes by Nina, is originally from East Java, Indonesia, and grew up with the nickname. She moved to the US in 2001 and has been working at State High for 13 years. She met her husband and had her two kids here. “Now this is home sweet home,” Troyan said.

With her kids currently in elementary school, Troyan enjoys having the summers off to spend time with them. 

Troyan was brought into food service by her friend over a decade ago. “A friend of mine actually introduced me to food service[…] I said ‘yeah, why not, I’ll try,’” Troyan explained.  

Working originally in the State High south building, Troyan would only serve 9th and 10th graders. After moving to the north building, she served upperclassmen. Now, she serves all students and enjoys a more cohesive community. “I think I love the whole unity,” Troyan noted. 

When asked about her favorite part of the job, Troyan said enthusiastically, “I can see you!”, referring to her students. “We love our kids,” she said. 

Working typically as a cashier. Students may find Troyan at the center station rapidly checking out people. For Troyan, small interactions with students can have a big impact. “As a human, I think you need to communicat[e], you know, and then you acknowledge people,” Troyan said. 

Keeping a school of over 2,500 students functioning day-to-day is hard work. Many of the State High staff work behind the scenes, ensuring the school runs smoothly. Troyan stressed the importance of mutual respect. “We kinda try to work as a team providing for you,… we try to engage with you,… with respect.” 

Troyan is a part of a greater team of cafeteria staff that helps each other out with day-to-day tasks. With Monday being the busiest day in the cafeteria, Troyan may end up doing food prep or assisting her team all around the food court. Students might even find Nina behind the snack bar. Ultimately, Troyan and the cafeteria staff help each other out whenever needed. 

Outside of the cafeteria, Troyan loves to indulge in her hobby of baking. Her baked goods are well-loved by her coworkers and her family alike. Some of her favorite items to bake include chocolate chip cookies for her son and cheesecake for her daughter.

“I love biscottis!” Troyan said when asked about her favorite baked goods. Undoubtedly, the cafeteria staff is lucky to have such a talented baker on their team. 

Above all else, Troyan values the face to face interaction with students. 

“It’s gonna make my day, too, like, you know, interacting [with students], I think that’s important,” Troyan said. “My crew I’m sure, like, will be thrilled if you say, like, ‘good morning’ or even [if] you say ‘hello’ to us.” 

Troyan enjoys it when students make an effort to interact with her and her team. Her message to State High students is “Please come see us! And then, of course, we have the free breakfast,” Troyan said. 

The State High cafeteria staff works hard to keep our school running, and values the connections made with students. It’s important to show our appreciation for our staff. So next time you pay a visit to the food court, whether it be for a bagel, nachos, or a cookie, keep in mind that a “good morning” or a “hello,” can go a long way.