I had been going to Monterey High School and even though I was a junior, I really had no plan for my future. My friends were more interested in teenage drama than thinking about what to do with their lives, and I was kind of afraid I would be that way, too. So when I heard about the Youth Ambassadors for Peace program, I signed up to join. One of YAP’s projects was to send students to Goodwill’s Culinary School for a week-long class on healthy eating. The class wasn’t just reading about food and nutrition; we were mostly in the kitchen working side-by-side with the chefs, Luis and Manuela. Along with that, we spent time planting in the organic garden. At the end of the week, all of us students prepared a huge meal for our family members, who attended our graduation ceremony. Seeing how happy I made the diners, I knew right away that this was the direction I wanted to take.
After I graduated from Monterey High School, Silver Star Academy, which runs the Youth Ambassadors for Peace program, agreed to pay for my tuition at Goodwill’s Culinary School, and I began the 20-week course. It fit me perfectly! Luis and Manuela expect a lot from the students, but they also allow them to work at their own pace and to make mistakes. They’re always patient and understanding, and best of all, they are really knowledgeable about all parts of the food service industry. I can always go to them for advice not only about food preparation, but also about making cooking my career.
While taking classes, I also was fortunate enough to get a job at Paris Bakery in downtown Monterey. There, I was able to put to use all of the training I’d been receiving at the Culinary School. I could tell that my education was excellent, since my employer is always pleased with the work I do. It’s a little difficult physically, since I have to start work at 3am and be at classes at 9am, but it’s worth all the effort. The job placement specialist from Goodwill Workforce Development Services is assisting me to keep my resume current, and to try to find more scholarships and grants for me to continue to get education and training in the culinary arts.
Having a set of useful skills that few people have gives me confidence in every part of my life. And my parents are so proud of me, since I’ve taken the first steps toward a rewarding career. I really wish that more kids in high school were aware of the opportunities that are out there. I can’t imagine what my life would be like if I hadn’t found this one!