By Allie Gladstone
It is 2 p.m. on a Wednesday afternoon. A Rider student is famished after being in class all day and desperate to grab a bite to eat before heading to her 4:30 p.m. class. She only has about 75 cents left of her Bronc Bucks, not enough for a make-your-own-pasta dish from Cranberry’s she was dreaming about during her lecture.
Fully aware that lunch ended around 1 p.m. and dinner would not start for another hour or so, she decides to venture into Daly’s for a stale bagel or perhaps a bowl of cold cereal.
She passes by Miss Ann, who swipes her ID card as they exchange brief pleasantries. She turns the corner and she sees a smiling face behind a sign that says “Pasta Station.” As if he were an angel, she runs over to join the long line made up of her equally hungry classmates formed around a man wearing a shirt that reads “I Feed Cranberry.”
Those who attend Rider have most likely heard of Raul, otherwise referred to as “The Pasta Guy.” Raul Cortes is a favorite part of the Daly’s staff.
“I love my job,” Cortes said. “There’s nothing more rewarding than having the ability to make a student’s day a little bit better. You never know what people are going through, and laughter will do good.”
As students come and get their pasta, they strike up conversations with him while they wait for their food. His charming demeanor seems to make it impossible for those who see him to suppress a grin.
“I won’t even get pasta if Raul’s not serving it that day,” senior Jen Swanton said. “It’s just not the same.”
Another student noted his culinary skills and ability to please students.
“He always makes the best pasta and he’s always so friendly,” senior Kara Perkoski said. “He always asks how I am and has a smile on his face, which brightens my day.”
Cortes tends to remember names, too. He truly seems to care about getting to know students. Even the quiet ones are guaranteed to be there for at least five minutes listening to what he has to say.
There is no denying that Cortes is a storyteller. He is charismatic and open about his beliefs and opinions. In conversation with him, there is a good chance he’ll bring up his faith.
“I owe everything to God,” he said. “He’s my reason to live.”
Cortes is also a writer. Many of the poems that he writes for his own personal enjoyment relate to God and his faith in some way or another.
Cortes can sometimes be found outside of Daly’s, in the library on his breaks doing research for poetry inspiration, or at Intervarsity Christian Fellowship meetings, an on-campus student-run club for Christians.
He is a strong believer in God and finds a connection with this campus activity in particular. Rider Intervarsity staff member Eric Duncan recalled a funny incident with Cortes.
“One time we had a personal testimony session, where each person was supposed to give a five-minute testimony of how God had worked in their life,” he said. “Raul was so passionate to share his story, that after 45 minutes we had to ask him to sit down so that other students could speak.”
Cortes doesn’t stop there. He has also shared a lot of his poetry at Brownwater, where an open-mic night is held in the Rider Pub on Wednesday nights. Cortes also served as a co-host of the program.
“I really like being able to share my [poetry] with students,” he said. “They said that they really appreciated my hard work.”
His poetry is passionate, and it is easy to see that he has talent and inserts heart-felt emotion into whatever he writes. He writes about real life and real feelings about God, love and trials.
“I’m really just glad that everyone appreciates what I do here,” Cortes said. “I know that I am judged by my character, my words and my actions, so I try to bring my best in that every day.”
So the next time your stomach grumbles at that awkward time of day, or even during normal lunch hours, stop by Cortes’s pasta station at Daly’s from 11 a.m. until 3 p.m. Monday through Friday for a smile, a story and maybe even an autograph. Oh, and some pasta, of course.
Read Raul’s Poem I’m On Fire Daily at Rider