News From the Kitchen
Lots of big happenings this month in our Youth Leadership Program!
Congratulations to August 2016 graduates Da’Mon (Tumma) Keelen, Noel (Know) Jackson, and Diana (DiDi) Otowoshe, who joined the ranks of college students! Tumma and Know are pursuing degrees in general studies at Delgado Community College; DiDi is pursuing a degree in mass communication at UNO. We are so proud and can’t wait to see what’s next!
Bourbon House = Team LK
On October 17th, Chefs Devan Giddix and Rene Bajeux hosted a group of LK graduates at Bourbon House, of the Dickie Brennan family of restaurants. Attendees gained insight into the path to become a chef as well as creating a sustainable work-life balance, toured their fabulous kitchen and event spaces, learned to efficiently shuck oysters, and of course sampled delicious items off the menu. Thanks to Bourbon House for such an exceptional experience!
On the Horizon: Health and Wellness
Starting Tuesday, November 1st, LK grads will have an opportunity to work out their bodies along with their minds in a newly formed running group. Look for us jogging the Lafitte Greenway every Tuesday morning, weather permitting!
We are thrilled to be rolling out an additional eight months of “next level” support and programming for YDP graduates! We sat down with stellar Youth Leadership Program Coordinator Devon Turner to learn about what’s ahead.
Tell us about YLP.
The Youth Leadership Program is an 8-month extension to the training program. It’s all about building upon previous personal successes to cultivate their leadership potential and address issues within their families, communities, and city.
What does that look like day to day?
A lot of this is brand new, so we’ve been building out a structure for the YLP and developing new programming. I’m working with two great interns – Wil Cousin and Raynard Janeau – who came to us through the Kellogg Foundation’s Young Men’s Voices (have) Power initiative. Together, we’ve focused on building an alumni community in general and a strong Youth Leadership Council specifically.
Day to day, we’re creating a community of graduates across time and place. We have six key areas of engagement: leadership and civic engagement, education, career development, advanced hospitality exposure, health and well-being, and social engagement. Every month we want to offer at least one activity in each of those areas and have a monthly check in and goal planning session to which all graduates are invited.
What are some events you’ve had?
Our Youth Leadership Council held its first meeting in March 2016, and programming started in May with a career development workshop. We’ve had additional career development workshops, a demonstration with Chef Renee at Palace Café, another with Chef Chris Okorie, goal planning sessions, give back opportunities, and opportunities for alumni to engage trainees. In April, alumni participated in the Raise the Age campaign, which was part of the juvenile justice reform movement. Youth Leadership Council members also participated in a leadership training offered by Harvard School of Government students and met with Councilmember Latoya Cantrell.
Tell us about the Youth Leadership Council.
The YLC is a group of very dedicated grads who are creating and developing alumni programming, recruiting new participants, and taking on leadership projects. The Council is intended to redefine existing narratives of young people in this city. Narratives about young people who work hard, who have a different vision for what the city can look like, who are tired of crime and miseducation and violence and substandard housing and urban blight – those stories are treated as celebrated exceptions. However, our participants demonstrate that those stories are far from the exception. They can speak very well about what this city could look like. My role is that of a facilitator and advisor.
Let’s talk future. What is the ultimate vision for YLP (one year from now)?
I’d love to see graduates who have really embraced a leadership role in their communities, who are really active in trying to address the social issues that affect them the most. In a beautiful world, they would be addressing those larger issues so they’re not just trying to survive from day to day, but tackling the issues that produce that kind of day to day living.
What does leadership mean to you?
To be a leader is to be someone who understands the day-to-day struggle and can transform that understanding into a call to action. As it pertains to YLP, we’re really helping graduates understand their strengths and their leadership potential, helping them to understand that being a leader is not something that’s dependent upon having “X” amount of dollars in your account or having achieved a certain level of formal education. We all can and should be leaders.
This month, we piloted a new version of our final program tier—professional development and externships.
Many times, externships can feel like a “bucket of ice water”: the people are new, the food is new, the schedule is new…everything is new. It can be overwhelming, and it didn’t work for everyone. Our program staff wanted to come up with a way to scaffold the path into independent employment so that more trainees could achieve success.
In our new model, eight of our trainees participated in two weeks of half day “stages” at a Ruby Slipper site, then returned to Liberty’s Kitchen in the afternoon for lessons and coaching on resumes, cover letters, and interviewing. As a growing, busy, multi-location breakfast and lunch restaurant, The Ruby Slipper was an ideal partner for our trainees to get a taste of working in a new environment while still maintaining confidence in their newly developed kitchen and café skills.
Managers and staff from The Ruby Slipper participated in an orientation at Liberty’s Kitchen prior to hosting their first “stages” and completed detailed weekly assessments to assist us in coaching each trainee towards their next best self. Following the two weeks, trainees transitioned into three-week externships at businesses they applied to during their professional development training. They ended up all over the city, at The Ruby Slipper Café, Bennachin, The Juju Bag, Bittersweet Confections, and Sassafras. Trainees reported a stronger sense of confidence and skill thanks to their focused two weeks at The Ruby Slipper.
Thanks to The Ruby Slipper for investing your time and energy in furthering the development of our young people!
–Posted by Harry Schnur
Meet LaDonna McDowell
In April 2013, LaDonna enrolled in Liberty’s Kitchen Youth Development Program and never missed a day. She was terrific about letting us know what social services she needed in order to succeed in the program —- Liberty’s Kitchen Program staff went to work! Throughout LaDonna’s time in training, she worked hard and consistently put her best efforts forward. As a single mother of a toddler and one on the way, LaDonna effectively utilized the support system at Liberty’s Kitchen and successful graduated in June. LaDonna is working at Center Plate in the Superdome and also accepted a position as the first supported employee working in our Youth Development Program. LaDonna is working with Dennis Bagneris, Liberty’s Kitchen Program Director, with the administrative functions of the office. She is dedicated to mentoring new trainees and teaching them the valuable life skills. Liberty’s Kitchen staff and students congratulate LaDonna on her terrific achievements.