Never giving up: Graduation celebrates success, overcoming obstacles

May 5, 2023

A happy dance, confetti, cheers, and tears punctuated the Food Bank of Delaware’s Culinary School’s Graduation Ceremony held Thursday outdoors at the Food Bank’s Newark site. Sixteen graduates representing classes from the Newark and Milford facilities not only successfully completed the 14-week workforce development training, but also all passed their SERV Safe® exam – an important industry certification.

The new graduates are: Keith Berry, Di’Monique Bessix, Johnathan Brown, Geremy Hampton, Brett Jones, Teyanna Morales, Kareem Murray, Tifani Schaffer, and Alejandro Villagomez from the Newark class are Samuel Dauphin, David Hicks, Sherly Fabiola Nelson, Jaquesha Ricketts, Ryesha Ross and Walter Vickers III from the Milford class.

“This is just the beginning,” Food Bank President and CEO Cathy Kanefsky told the students before they received their certificates of completion. “This program isn’t just about food; it’s about life. You’re set for success.”

Keynote speaker Gaylan Maxson, Executive Chef, The Main Event, echoed her sentiments. Maxon, a Culinary School alumnus, and provided the graduates with advice based on his experience in the culinary world. “Cooking comes from the heart, and this is not easy. You need to show up ready for work. You never stop learning,” he said. He encouraged students to connect with people in the profession and “write stuff down. Don’t walk into the kitchen thinking you know everything.”

He reminded students that people who wash dishes were key to a restaurant’s success. “Everyone eats; the key is to make them come to you,” he said.

The Food Bank’s Executive Chef Tim Hunter noted that Maxson was in the first culinary class he taught, and they still remain in touch. Hunter reinforced Maxson’s words. “Keep showing up. It’s your dream, and this is your stepping stone,” he said.

As students received their certificates, some simultaneously smiled and wiped tears; it was their words – stories of struggle and expressions of gratitude – that inspired the audience. “It was a hard road. I’m coming from jail,” said Keith Berry.

Johnathan Brown shared a poem, “Opportunity,” that he wrote for the occasion.

Kareem, Brett, Teyanna, and Walt spoke of their personal journeys, conquering challenges, and taking pride in their accomplishments. “I never gave up,” said David, who failed his first attempt in the Culinary School. “I’m proud of myself,” said Sherly.

The Culinary School The Culinary School is a 14-week training program, certified by the Delaware Department of Education, that prepares students for careers in the food service industry. The next class in Newark starts on May 15; a class will start on Sept. 11 in Milford. Visit here for more information or to enroll.

Congratulations, graduates!

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