For a year now, I’ve worked at Liberty’s Kitchen as our Career Development Manager. I’ve worked intensively with over sixty of our trainees and graduates. I’ve watched them warm up to the program, set goals, reach them, fall short of them, get excited, get disappointed, and get back up to do the whole thing over again. I’ve come to understand what we are asking of them.
On the surface, we are asking them to enter a workforce training program and start a career.
We are asking much more than that.
In psychologist Abraham Maslow’s terminology, we are asking our trainees to self-actualize–to build a career that speaks to who they are, what they excel at, and what they want to see in the world. Maslow will tell you that the preconditions for this are vital. To achieve this, a person needs to be functioning physiologically (be basically healthy), feel safe, feel love and belonging, and have esteem in the eyes of self and others.
We are asking this level of achievement in a world where health care access is still not a given in most hourly jobs and access to affordable fresh food is still remote; where an unacceptable proportion of young people will witness or be a victim of domestic, neighborhood or police violence; where loving relationships can be quickly interrupted by the criminal justice system or strained by poverty; and where the loudest message they hear from society is that “this is not for you.” We ask them to believe that they can eventually reach the top in an industry that promotes white workers at double the rate of black workers.
We ask a young person to invest four months in a full-time training program instead of working. We ask them to arrive at work on time and be consistent despite relentless challenges that undermine their safety, security, and belonging. We ask them to bring a $14/hr attitude to a $9/hr job. We ask them to pursue opportunities to increase their knowledge and skill set, to seek further education. We ask them to lead and mentor others, to involve themselves in their community, and to make a better world.
What we are asking may seem impossible. It’s not–but it is hard. But we ask any way. And every day, our trainees walk through the door and put one foot in front of the other, giving us answers that surprise and inspire us. And when they come back through our doors as alumni, building their careers, they amaze us with their determination, resourcefulness, and generosity.
So thank you. Thank you for joining us in making the impossible less so. Thank you for supporting Liberty’s Kitchen.
— Posted by Harry Schnur