Nick came to our program desperate for a change in his life. At age 20, he was a convicted felon who was trying to find employment, but kept running into brick walls. He had lost six friends to gun violence and he was convinced that he was next. From start to finish at Liberty’s Kitchen, he was a strong trainee. Upon graduation he not only secured a full time job, but also paid off his court fines and is officially off probation. Nick no longer travels with his old circle of friends and has managed to eliminate criminal activity from his life by staying busy working and spending time with his family. Since coming to Liberty’s Kitchen, Nick has lost two more friends to gun violence.
Nick recently told us: “I’m so happy with myself for changing for the better and finally accomplishing my goal to be honest. I don’t know where I would be now if it wasn’t for you guys…Liberty’s Kitchen really helped me turn my whole life around!!!!!!! Thanks for everything because I really needed it.”
Syrena was referred to the Youth Development Program by two of her friends who happened to be current trainees in the YDP. Her friends were struggling with basic program expectations like good attendance and professionalism. Syrena said that she was “gonna come here and show them how it’s really done.” Syrena was working a dead end job with no chance for promotion and little acknowledgement for her strong work ethic. She said that she already knew how to work hard but something was holding her back from advancing in her culinary career.
During her time at Liberty’s Kitchen, Syrena proved to be a hard-working, dedicated team player with natural leadership qualities. Because of her work experience before Liberty’s Kitchen, Syrena completed the 12-week training program in 8 weeks. She was the first Liberty’s Kitchen graduate who graduated early.
Syrena has always been driven and focused and easily sees the big picture and strategizes her next step. Upon graduation, Syrena started working 2 jobs and was the first recipient of John Besh Chef’s Move! Scholarship. As the recipient of this prestigious scholarship she has studied and trained at the International Culinary Center in New York and restaurants in London. Along with her evening job at Bayona, Syrena has returned to Liberty’s Kitchen to inspire the next generation of trainees to surpass the bar that she has set.
From Syrena: “As a participant at Liberty’s Kitchen, I had the chance to see chefs cooking in creative ways and to work with many different personalities! Liberty’s Kitchen put the crack in the door that I’m walking through now.”
Tevin is a product of the foster care system and was moved around to different families and different neighborhoods throughout his life. After high school, Tevin couldn’t afford college and became discouraged about what he wanted to do with his future. He was associating with the wrong crowd, had been arrested a few times and was moving down a negative pathway when a member of his church suggested that he apply to work at Liberty’s Kitchen. When he started the program he had absolutely no cooking experience and had barely used a stove. He quickly fell in love with the culinary arts and found the motivation and drive to turn his life around. Liberty’s Kitchen enabled him to recognize his true talents and get a job in a restaurant so he can continue to pursue his passion. After honing his skills at Bayona Restaurant under Chef Susan Spicer, Tevin is currently at Chef John Besh’s Luke Restaurant.
Ireian was referred to our program through a friend. When she arrived she knew one thing for certain, there had to be something better for her in the future. Physically, mentally, and emotionally abused by both her mother and stepfather, she was isolated, ignored and abandoned in her own home and needed a way out. Ireian’s case is a great example of the holistic approach Liberty’s Kitchen offers to the youth in an effort to create self-sustaining individuals. Upon program completion, she got her first real job in the food service industry. We were also instrumental in helping her move out of her destructive living situation and acquire her own apartment.
Rakim was referred to our program through his younger sister Bryaniesha (also a graduate of Liberty’s Kitchen). Rakim was a young man who identified himself as a person with “drive but no direction”. As the man of his mother’s house, he was tasked with not only being the surrogate father to his two sisters and little brother, but he was also the actual father of his own two children. Barely able to make the rent, everyone under the same roof, people sleeping in every room of the house and having very little to eat, Rakim recognized he needed to do better for his family. He just didn’t know how or have anyone to show him the way. At Liberty’s Kitchen, he quickly embraced the program and what we had to offer, completed his culinary courses and graduated ahead of schedule. Upon graduation, he was easily able to find employment in the culinary industry. Since that time, he assisted financially and physically in moving both his sisters and his brother into their own apartment, moved his mother in with his aunt, and pays rent for his own apartment where he and his girlfriend raise their two children.