By Gwen Guerke, Communications Coordinator
Graduation ceremonies for the 9th graduating class of The Culinary School at the Food Bank of Delaware in Milford got a bit emotional as both the graduates and the chef instructor searched for words and fought back tears.
The four graduates, Jermachel Deshields, Michael Hutchens, Lisa Messina, and Justin Roundtree, all completed the 14-week program and all successfully passed the ServSafe exam.
So there were kudos flying all around from Tish Badamshin, chef instructor, and Ruthann Messick, Culinary School program manager, as well as from Chad Robinson, Milford branch manager and Charlotte McGarry, Programs director.
Guest speaker, Chef Carol Ellis, banquet sous chef at Dover Downs Hotel & Casino, was keynote speaker.
“What can I teach you? How can I help you? I can say be ready for work, and love what you do,” she said.
But the most inspiring comments came from the new graduates themselves who admitted they often struggled during the 12 weeks spent in the classroom and two week internship.
These students’ tuition was funded through the WONDER (Work Opportunity Networks to Develop Employment Readiness) program, a federal grant geared to getting people into the workplace and off SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) benefits. The program is led by Delaware Health and Social Services Division of Social Services, which administers the SNAP Program in Delaware. It offers targeted career tracks in construction, culinary arts, manufacturing and broad-based job placement.
Chef Tish said she repeatedly told the students that “failure is not an option,” and they obviously listened.
One student, Jermachel, said when he started in the program he was “starting from scratch.”
“I came into the program because I was trying to find a job. I was used to working,” said the 36-year-old former electrician who had a brush with the law.
On Tuesday, he received the “Most Improved” award during the commencement ceremonies.
“I thank God. Once I listened to her (Chef Tish), I know she’s wise. I’m looking to college in the future. I’m in the mood to go further,” he said. He will also be working with Chef Ellis at Dover Downs.
Lisa Messina received the Perfect Attendance Award.
Among those attending the ceremonies were state Reps. Harvey Kenton, Bobby Outten, and Lyndon Yearick.
The second Project Wonder class at the Food Bank’s Milford Branch started on July 18.
For more information about the Food Bank of Delaware’s programs or The Culinary School, visit www.fbd.org.