You might think a good work ethic is dead or dying in the United States. Overall, that might be the case. But as evidenced by the viral story of the teen who walked 10 miles for a job interview in the snow and the restaurant that hired him, there’s a group of employees in Indiana who are trying to prove that wrong — and enjoying it.
In fact, that restaurant is producing another crop of incredible stories about some of its other employees — like the one who works during the day as a deputy county prosecutor (more on that in a bit).
Last week, the story of Jhaqueil Reagan, the 18-year-old who was spotted by Papa Roux owner Art Bouvier walking 10 miles in the snow for a job interview elsewhere, went viral when he was offered a position at the New Orleans-inspired restaurant. Reagan happily accepted the employment. The young man and the owner instantly became viral stars.
In a photo made from video, 18-year-old Jhaqueil Reagan, 18, poses for a photo at Papa Roux in Indianapolis, Thursday, Feb. 28. (Photo: AP/Indianapolis Star, Bill McCleery)
Bouvier — yes, people who know him call him Papa — told TheBlaze even in the few moments he had with Reagan, his actions signaled a strong work ethic, which had him offer the young man the job so quickly. But he also told TheBlaze he “has a staff full of Jhaqueils.”
As Glenn Beck said when he picked up Reagan’s story last week, he was at first “thrilled” and then “bummed” that such a story — one that showcases someone willing to go the extra mile, literally — would be considered news in America.
“It shows us just how far off the mark we really are,” Beck said, referring to the idea that hard work and doing whatever it takes is becoming so rare it’s now a national news story.
Although it might seem like the nation is starved for jobs and people with the good work ethic to accept them, staff members at Papa Roux are offering a glimmer of hope.
Art “Papa” Bouvier in front of his restaurant. (Photo: Fox 59 screenshot)
Proving Oneself on the ‘Roux Croux‘
Kristin Erato-Alosinac is a rare authority on the topic of youth and work ethic because of her own diverse employment. The 44-year-old is a deputy county prosecutor in Hendricks County by day and a jack-of-all-trades at Papa Roux a few nights a week.
“It’s a good balance for me,” Erato-Alosinac said, explaining that she has worked two jobs for a while as her Croatian husband was not legally allowed to work in the U.S. yet.
With 15 years as a prosecutor, Erato-Alosinac said what she sees in her day job and what she sees in the youth at Papa Roux are at opposite ends of the spectrum.
“From my full-time job I see a completely different picture,” said Erato-Alosinac, who is one of two “age outliers” in a staff of mostly teens and young adults as Bouvier tactfully put it. “Eighty percent who come in don’t have a job. They either just don’t want to take that type of a job…I don’t understand how they’re unemployed. …I don’t know if they’re lazy.”
Then there’s the “Roux Croux,” as they’re called.
Some of the Roux Croux on their day off spending time together. (Photo: Papa Roux Po-Boys and Cajun Eats/Facebook)
“They fascinate me,” said Erato-Alosinac, who was a regular customer at Papa Roux before she joined the “Croux.” “They’re different than the people just dropping off an application everywhere. They know what the business is about. They show they have the personality and the work ethic to get in.
In fact, Colleen Bouvier, Art’s wife, told TheBlaze for the last three years or so, none of their employees came from the traditional application process. They were either referred by word-of-mouth or were regular customers.
“The normal application process did not work out for us,” Colleen explained. “One of the things we’ve been noticing with this crew is they’re tight — family tight. If you don’t fit in, you’ll quit. It’s not easy when you’re new … you have to prove yourself.”
Take 52-year-old Indianapolis native Jeff Cunningham. Cunningham, the other “age outlier,” said he’s held a lot of jobs in restaurants. Cunningham was recruited to work at Papa Roux when someone who knew he needed a job saw him washing dishes at a church breakfast function.
“I want to say Papa hired me because Papa is a really fair person. He likes to give everybody a chance. All you got to do is just prove yourself. [Prove] that you will work,” Cunningham said.
As Colleen said, the Roux Croux is more family than staff. During past week when Papa was away taking care of the media storm and Mama was keeping the restaurant running, Colleen explained she returned home to find some of the Croux, after working all day, had stopped by, helped her children with their homework, put them to bed and were putting together the following week’s work schedule.
“When it comes to work ethic, they all just got it,” Colleen said.
Where Does Work Ethic Come From and Why Does There Seem to Be a Deficit?
With all the Papa Roux employees TheBlaze spoke with, the answer to where they learned their work ethic was unanimous: from their parents. From the “age outliers” to workers in their twenties to Jhaqueil Reagan, they all attribute modeling their value of hard work to their parents.
Abigale Meyer said she learned it from her mother.
“If you are going to work hard, you have to make it fun. I don’t think work and fun are mutually exclusive,” the 20-year-old said, noting that she picked up this attitude from her mother who used to bring her along on her job cleaning houses. This was where Meyer saw her mom “cracking up all day,” enjoying her job.
For the younger workers at Papa Roux, they said they don’t see the lack of work ethic in their generation and consider it a misconception. Then again, they’re around the Roux Croux all the time so they might only be witnessing what’s in that bubble while people like Erato-Alosinac sees a different story.
“I think that’s a generalization for older generations to make,” Meyer, who is studying to be a high school English teacher, said. “Everyone I know at least has one job and is also in school.”
Kelsey Dulgar, a 22-year-old who is also a full-time student, would agree with Meyer’s assessment.
“There are kids out there who are willing to work,” Dulgar said. “It’s easier to have a good work ethic though for a job you care about and because you have a boss that would do the same too.”
“It’s cool to show people ‘look, people our age have a good work ethic,’” she added.
But Colleen acknowledged that it’s easy to make this generalization about younger generations.
“I can tell you I’m guilty of that a lot of times,” Colleen said. “That’s the old lady coming out of me. I’m quick to say that about the teenage generation.”
Colleen said she thinks technology could come into play with the topic of work ethic and youth.
“It’s probably a contributing factor in the older generation picking on the younger because they don’t have to do as much legwork,” she said.
Still, as Jhaquiel Reagan put it on the Glenn Beck Program on TheBlaze TV last week, if people are unemployed or shying from certain types of employment then they’re just not trying hard enough.
“It’s all about perseverance and getting out there, putting your name out there,” Reagan said. “It’s not what you know sometimes, it’s who you know. And it’s not who you know, it’s what you know.”
Watch Reagan and Art Bouvier speak with Glenn Beck during his show last week:
Here’s Reagan and Bouvier on the Glenn Beck Radio Program:
How’s Jhaqueil Doing Now?
What has the last week been like for Reagan? The teen whose mother died last year, who dropped out of high school but earned his GED, who up until two weeks ago couldn’t afford cost of a bus ride, now has stable employment and an outpouring of support so great that he has established the The Jhaqueil DamianJoel Reagan Foundation: Doing Good While Treating People Well.
According to the Papa Roux Facebook page, the foundation was seeded with 50 percent of the donations Reagan received and future donations to Reagan — and those made directly to the foundation — will go there as well.
“His personal needs being met, his concern now is helping others,” Papa Roux stated on Facebook. “Half of what he could legally claim his own, he wants to give back.”
The post explains that the foundation will help the local underprivileged but while also providing those looking for employment tools that might help them get it.
“From bus passes to clothes and more, Jhaqueil’s wish is to use this worldwide viral attention to help others who have similar needs, but less media frenzy,” the post read.
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