Leading by example

Located in the small shopping center down the road from Cedar Shoals settled between a dry cleaner and an oriental market sits a unique Ethiopian restaurant called Mannweeta.  

Not only is the food unique, so is the story and the inspiration for the restaurant’s name: senior cross country runner Weenta James.

“My mom had the idea of the restaurant’s name because of how I helped her with certain things.  She promised me that she was going to put my name in the title,” James said. “She wanted to incorporate my name because of a dream she had which had Mannaweenta in it, which has more of religious meaning.”  

James’s positive attitude and work ethic can be seen in how she leads her team members and her devotion to the restaurant along with other extracurricular activities she is involved in. 

Recently James has not had as much time as she would like to devote to the restaurant due to her taxing schedule with cross country practices Monday through Friday and her involvement in the school’s drama program. 

Cedar Shoals Senior Weenta James plays Babe in Cedar’s rendition of “Crimes of the Heart”. Photo by Illandria Ellison, caption by Emma Dowling

“I mainly work on the weekends. I am usually working in the morning around eleven, and if I stay there the entire day I am working around eleven hours.” James said. 

James’s character can be seen through her encouragement for teammates to be the best versions of themselves. 

“She is hardworking and determined to get better. She pushes the whole team to get better while bettering herself,”  Zachary Kulik, junior cross country runner, said. 

James ensures her teammates have the support they need to better themselves during practice.  

“She makes sure we do not cut corners or slack off during practice. She is always supporting us,” Kulik said. 

James understands how people need different forms of encouragement, and everyone has different strengths and weaknesses. She uses those differences to help individuals with what they need specifically in order to succeed. 

“I basically understand everybody’s struggles in the team,” James said. “If they say they cannot do a task then I end up explaining to them that I understand how they feel, but in the long run the struggle is probably going to help you.”  

Knowing how her teammates work is crucial when trying to help them succeed.  James takes the time to put herself in the shoes of others. 

“Understanding others is one way I can show my leadership and help my team members if they are struggling.  I also try to better myself while helping better others,” James said. 

James also uses competition to motivate her teammates to give them that extra drive. 

“I always told the girls on the team that they pushed me to be better.  I’ve always tried to be better than them in order to push myself, and so that’s what I try to put upon them, so they become more competitive to get better,” James said.

Now finishing her seventh cross country season, James finds other benefits to running. 

“I just get to take my mind off of everything and focus on what’s around me.  It’s actually fun to not be on your phone or focusing on what others think of you or what is going on in your life. I like to just look at the world and what is going on in that moment,” James said.