Darnell is an 18-year old trainee in our Youth Development Program and current all-star bellman at the Ace Hotel, almost ready to graduate next Friday! We sat down with Darnell to hear about his favorite part of the program (not the kitchen) and what he plans to do next!
What brought you to Liberty’s Kitchen?
The main reason I came was to do something with myself, I didn’t want to go straight to college after high school and I didn’t want a lot of idle time on my hands because that makes it easier to get into something you don’t want to.
Describe your experience at LK thus far.
In Foundations you did different stuff, like icebreakers, exercises, field trips — that especially opened your eyes, like the city bus tour and Studio Be. If I hadn’t come here, I probably would have known about it [Studio Be] but hadn’t been to it, but coming here I had the opportunity to experience it, and after visiting I saw a different point of view. I learned here that the kitchen is not for me. I didn’t like cooking, none of it. I want to be in the front of house. When I talked to [Career Development Associate] Ms. Bri I said I wanted any job in FOH, hosting is fine, bellman is cool, anything in the front.
Have you seen any personal changes since you started the program?
At first I was quiet. In Foundations I barely said stuff. I had my little shell, if I don’t know you I’m not going to say much to you, now if you see me they’d be like wow that’s the same kid. One of the reasons I came is I didn’t want to stay quiet, I wanted to learn to really communicate. Not only did I get the chance to but [the program] taught me how to do it. The staff make you feel welcome, they’re always open to you, whatever you need, if we can’t help you we’ll find somebody else that can. You don’t find that, especially not for free. It’s messed up that’s how the world is – “I’ll help you but what am I gonna get out of it.” You’re here for free – can’t put a price tag on that.
What part of the program has been your favorite so far?
My favorite part had to be the Café. I learned my strengths are in the front. I like working the cash register. I was kinda nervous, but they broke it down to me so I could pick up on it. I like interacting with customers, it’s really preparing you for your externship and stage. You always gotta be on top of your game. You gotta move around, check on customers, go the extra mile – “Can I get you anything else, what would you like with that? Everything okay?” My attention to detail really went up, you gotta check the pastry case, tables, is everything clean, did you leave dirty plates outside because your customers left. Knowing how to have a presentable front.
My communication skills went up. I went to Domino’s this weekend – I gave lady $20 and a quarter and when she accidentally made the quarter drop, I joked, “You don’t want that quarter huh!” I would never have done that before. That would have never happened if I hadn’t got this opportunity, I would have stayed quiet, only talked to people I really knew.
Where are you externing?
I’m a bellman at the Ace Hotel. I go upstairs, help people check out and bring bags downstairs, sometimes they come early, so I stow bags in the bell closet, write their name on the ticket. You gotta pay attention to which shelf it’s on because you don’t want to lose someone’s stuff. You gotta be on top of your game with that.
What’s your next move?
I’m about to go to school – called Earn and Learn – they’ll teach me a trade and they’ll pay me. Electrical or IT. They’re exclusive. I always wanted the skills but didn’t really want to go to school. I just want as many skills as I can get. I found out people go to school, get degrees, graduate, and when they graduate can’t even get a job. The more skills I get the more flexible my options will be. Those two jobs will still be around ten years from now.
You’re graduating soon – how do you feel?
It really feels like I earned it. It shows me that I stayed dedicated. Anybody considering the program, I would say you gotta do it for yourself.
–Posted by Nadia Laher, Development Coordinator