Darden CEO Shares Life Experiences with Elevation Scholars

Every summer, our Scholars have the opportunity to immerse themselves in various professional industries, thanks to our corporate sponsors and community partners. These annual “Horizon Events” are meant to spark curiosity in our Scholars and provide a welcoming, professional environment for them to explore their interests. 

This past summer was truly special for our students as they participated in our second annual Horizon Event at Darden Restaurants. In addition to a campus tour, students engaged in an intimate conversation with Darden CEO Rick Cardenas. 

 He left us with several powerful takeaways for our students: 

 Conquer imposter syndrome. Cardenas may lead one of the largest Fortune 500 companies in the restaurant industry, but his journey isn’t that different from many of our Scholars. He grew up as a first-generation American and was the first in his family to attend college. He is also a graduate of one of our core high school partners – Oak Ridge High School – and the first UCF graduate to attend The Amos Tuck School at Dartmouth College!

 “There may be times that you question yourself,” shared Cardenas. “But whenever you ever get that feeling, remember that someone chose you to be there. Someone saw something in you and you’re exactly where you need to be.”

 Adapt to the journey. While Cardenas started his  35-year career with Darden as a busser, many people may not know that his original dream as a young boy was to become an architect. But after serving as an assistant manager for a local restaurant, his passion soon turned to finance. 

 “If you’re unsure of what you want to do right now, that’s okay,” added Cardenas. “Ask questions, examine what makes you curious, and find out where you can add the most value. “

 Focus on growth and add value. For many students navigating the path to college, it can be easy to fall into the trap of quantity vs. quality (i.e., who can send out the most applications … or join the most clubs at school). However, there is more value in reflecting on and aligning both your passions and abilities.

 “The importance of college isn’t just about the technical skills,” said Cardenas. “It’s where you can learn, listen, grow, and get exposure to things you’ve never encountered. And the beauty is, the journey continues even after graduation. In fact, when you graduate from college, the learning starts the next day.”

We can’t thank Darden and Rick Cardenas enough for their hospitality and time spent with our students. Thank you for your support of our Scholars!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.