Despite challenges and hardship like incarceration, hearing impairment, career transition and more, 14 students from The Culinary School at the Food Bank of Delaware persevered to complete a 14-week culinary arts training program. Ten of these graduates already have employment lined up.
Their accomplishments were celebrated this morning at a graduation ceremony. The graduates include: Lavender Artwell, Howard Bailey, Mary Calderoni, Shawn Cowan, Steven Eatmon, Tony Ferrell, Christopher Henry, Matt Machulski, Kayla Reddick, Dana Richards, Dolicia Rogers, Cleon Stewart, Stephanie Turk and Jameel Webster.
“Many of us have experienced loss, grief and trauma,” she told students. “Many of us have experienced systems and individuals who have created barriers to our self-actualization – making us doubt ourselves. But, we are not what happened to us – each of us has the power to own our lives and nobody can determine your worth but yourself.”
Biden told the audience, “It is our duty to support second chances…we have an obligation to break down walls.”
Students have spent the past 14 weeks developing their skills both in and outside the kitchen. From proper knife handling techniques to ServSafe® certification and completing a two-week internship, the students are prepared for entry-level jobs in the food industry.
Graduate Mary Calderoni arrived at The Culinary School 14 weeks ago looking for a new start. She spent her entire career in the mental health field. “I want to thank this program for giving me the gift of a new life,” she said. “It’s the beginning of the rest of my life in a career that truly has my heart.”
Students’ tuition was funded through multiple sources including corporate scholarships from Capital One, Chase and Comenity Bank, the Delaware Department of Labor, Delaware WONDER (Work Opportunity Networks to Develop Employment Readiness), a federal grant geared to getting people into the workplace and off SNAP benefits. This employment and training program is led by Delaware Health and Social Services Division of Social Services (DHSS), which administers the SNAP Program in Delaware.
Delaware Department of Labor Secretary Patrice Gilliam-Johnson also provided remarks to students. Since 2011, the Department of Labor contributed more than $245,000 to support student tuition at The Culinary School. “It warms my heart to see the manifestation of a dream realized… my heart is on fire today,” she said.
Students have landed employment at Aramark at the University of Delaware, Two Stones Pub, 8th and Union, Maiale and Delaware Park.
“Students always ask how they can thank the Food Bank of Delaware for the opportunity to attend The Culinary School. I always tell them, ‘Don’t thank us. Just land and keep a job.’ Placing Delawareans in meaningful employment that results in economic sustainability and providing second chances are what we are all about,” said Food Bank of Delaware President and CEO Patricia Beebe.
Several students were honored with special awards. They are:
- Outstanding Leadership: Cleon Stewart
- Highest GPA: Shawn Cowan
- Perfect Attendance: Mary Calderoni, Chris Henry, Cleon Stewart and Jameel Webster
- Best Mystery Basket Dish: Stephanie Turk
After the ceremony, graduates served guests a lunch buffet that included grilled chicken bruschetta, beef brisket, mushroom risotto, twice-baked potatoes and more.
The mission of The Culinary School is two-fold. First students are taught skills that are highly desirable to employers in the food industry and second, these newly-developed skills have the potential to lead to jobs in the industry that provide job security and economic sustainability. The next class begins Monday, Feburary 13 at both the Newark and Milford facilities. To learn more about The Culinary School at the Food Bank of Delaware, visit www.fbd.org/the-culinary-school.