This is the eighteenth of 20 profiles about The Gazette's Best and Brightest Class of 2014.
At first, Julia Stadeker was ecstatic about scoring a job interview at McDonald's last spring.
"After the call, however, I was surprised to find my delight transform into bewilderment and regret," she said. "Why wasn't I celebrating? I received a call back. But I soon realized I felt deeply conflicted about accepting a job from an ordinary McDonald's."
She was at odds because of the saying she's heard so many times before: If you don't work hard, you'll end up flipping burgers at McDonald's.
"I work extremely hard," Stadeker said. "I do my best because I do not accept people judging me and categorizing me as just an African-American female. That is why I shouldn't be employed at McDonald's. If I accept the job, then I accept becoming the ultimate stereotypical figure: the everyday black girl who works at McDonald's." She struggled with this internal conflict for more than a week.
"It's been a personal goal of mine to bring about change on how the world views African-Americans, an ongoing issue that still requires attention," she said. "I want everyone to see my everyday hard work and envision themselves doing just that. I do not want to be on a pedestal - I want to become a positive example."
Stadeker, 18, took the job at McDonald's and within weeks of being hired was named Employee of the Month.
"I'm still there, and I'm still having a blast," she said. "I became aware of the substantial success that can be accomplished when I apply my hard work and dedication into my goals and community."
And that internal conflict?
"I don't see it now as a stereotype like I did a year ago," she said. "I was worrying for nothing. I've never been teased about it. When people ask at school if I work, they'll say, 'Lucky you, you have a job!'"
Stadeker, who says she's usually smiling at work, is grateful for what she's learned from her job, including people skills.
"I usually ask people 'How are you?' or 'How's your day?' and it can make their day - they've told me this," she said. "I've become more conscious of how people are feeling."