Since its inception, 74 graduation ceremonies have been held for the Culinary Job Training Program—celebrating 400+ individuals who succeeded in completing the 10-week intensive class. The most recent graduation was held Friday, March 17th.
There was a special spark in the air on Friday as the Malone Center warehouse was transformed into a festive banquet space. Floors were mopped, pallets of food moved out, tables decorated and banners hung. Then the guests began to arrive. Parents and siblings, grandparents and grandchildren, case workers and Food Shuttle Board members all joined to encourage and celebrate five new chefs.
Sherby, Shaniqua, Jeffrey, Lenell and Chanee beamed as the gathered crowd enjoyed the luncheon that comprised their ‘final exam.’ Despite different backgrounds and life challenges, these five coalesced as a group, supporting eachother and achieving their goal.
Many guests shared moving testimonials to their loved ones’ hard work andpersistence. Sherby acknowledged that this was “the longest, hardest 10-weeks of my life!” One special guest, Patrick, who manages Dickie’s BBQ, is also a graduate of the Program. Speaking from experience Patrick encouraged them to remember that “there is no limit to what you can achieve.”
The affection and respect flowed both ways, with the graduates, in turn, acknowledging the impact that IFFS staff had on them. It is inspirational to share this special time with people who have struggled against so many barriers. Unemployment, homelessness, incarceration--for a joyful hour those life challenges faded into the background as these five proud graduates focused on their current success and what the future might hold for them. To quote one guest “people can taste your love and passion in the food you have made for us today.”