The East Valley Institute of Technology has prepared a new program to equip teens transitioning out of foster care some tools to be successful on their own.
The program enables them to obtain their GED or high school equivalency diploma and enroll in an EVIT career training program so they can earn an industry certification and start a career, according to school spokeswoman CeCe Todd.
As part of this program, EVIT paired culinary instructors with a group of foster teens to teach them how to cook.
EVIT Foster Youth Services Coordinator Jaron Neal said the event was possible after a church volunteer, John Keane, coordinated with several group foster homes.
“Several of the group homes came to him and said that they wanted some sort of life-skill culinary cooking class for the foster students that are aging out of care.”
Together, Keane, Neal, and Chefs Michael Mauri and Armour Black deliberated and planned this event over a period of three months.
“The culinary guys have been amazing, and they are totally into, it’s been really nice of them to reach out,” Keane stated.
Initially planned to be a semester event, Neal said he hopes the program will become permanent to help with the transition out of foster care.
“Once we can get this down pat and we feel like we’re doing it pretty well, hopefully we can develop a nine-week class for foster youths completely free with them learning culinary and cooking skills.”
The event started with Chefs Michael Mauri and Armour Black, EVIT culinary instructors, explained proper prep, etiquette, kitchen safety and tips on purchasing food.
The dinner on the menu consisted of chicken, rice, and vegetables of their choosing with strawberry shortcake as dessert.
After an overview of the menu and instructions, the 25 students were placed in the kitchen and started working in small teams.
One youth, who could not be named because of child privacy laws, was impressed by how informative and helpful the night had been.
Others conveyed how cooking is a major interest for them and intend to use what they learned in the future.
“I really enjoyed it, cooking around other people and just learning more about cooking,” one teen said. “I am a fan of cooking and I want to go to culinary school.”
Foster Youth Services Coordinator Jaron Neal said that the end goal is that the lessons that they learn will serve them as they go out on their own and that they’ll be able to make their own meals because of what the program taught them.
“The thing is, when you are working with foster students or any students who are considered at risk, you don’t look for immediate results,” he said. “What you look for is when they hit 25, 26, 27 that something stuck with them.”
Todd said EVIT Superintendent Dr. Chad Wilson “plans to grow it over time because there is a such a need for foster youth in Arizona to receive this kind of education and training.”