When I started the Second Harvest Culinary Training Program, it changed my life.
Before this program, I was an assistant manager at a gas station, but even with that job, it was still a struggle for my husband and me to keep our heads above water. When I heard about this program from a friend, I hesitated to call, at first. When I finally did, though, I never could have imagined how much my life was about to change for the better.
In the beginning, it was a huge challenge for me. My hours were cut to part-time at work, and we were relying on my husband’s small income. I was worried I would have to quit and find more work so we wouldn’t get behind on bills.
I prayed, “God, if this is for me, I know that you will make a way.” Guess what? That’s exactly what happened. My husband found a second job, and because he wanted me to follow my dreams, I was able to continue. This was music to my ears, though it was new to me to depend on someone other than God.
One of my favorite parts of the culinary training program was, of course, the food! However, the staff, my classmates, guest speakers, and guest chefs at Second Harvest were some of the most caring people I had ever met. This program became more than a place to learn and grow, it became a family you could count on.
The chefs, especially Chef John (aka, Mr. “Tough Guy”), were excellent instructors. Chef John’s realness and honesty helped me stay in the game, and Chef Izzy is one of the coolest and most honest people I have ever met. He always kept it real with us, and I appreciated that from both of them.
Idalia and her amazing team were committed to making sure I had all the resources and support I needed to stay in the program. The life skills classes taught gave me a safe environment to express myself, and through that, I was able to release a lot of things I hadn’t realized were holding me back, and I love them all for that.
This program taught me a lot about myself. I realized I was the one keeping myself from being great, and this helped me remove those limits and step out in faith. I was my own worst enemy, and getting in my own way, but they helped me find the greatness in me. I am so appreciative of the tough love given by Chef John and Chef Izzy, and cannot thank them enough.
There were plenty of days I wanted to just give up, and they wouldn’t let me. They showed me they cared for me, and they gave me the motivation I needed to follow through and finish strong. So that’s exactly what I did.
My life has changed so much for the better since starting the culinary training program at Second Harvest. I was fortunate enough to find a few jobs after completion of the program, but thanks to the help of Idalia, I found the one that really works for me. I am working a job I love, and I don’t mind getting up and going to. I look forward to my days at Village on the Green. I have a wonderful schedule that allows me to be home with my kids, and I now make more money than I have ever made.
I am proud to say that June marked my one year anniversary at Village on the Green, and since that time I have already seen two raises! There is not a doubt in my mind what God can do. I was afraid to start over, but sometimes it takes starting from the bottom to reach the top.
Now, everywhere I go I tell people my story and hope it will encourage them to want to do better. The first thing I say is Second Harvest Food Bank changed my life. Recently, I ran into two students currently attending the training program at the food bank, and the first thing I told them was to stick with it – because it is worth it. This program will guide you in the right direction, and help you reach your goals. They will not stop until you are happy at a job you enjoy and can grow.
My focus now is on my future and my family. I am learning new things every day. God has surrounded me with people full of knowledge and many years of experience in the culinary field. My next step is to start a small business!
I have been doing fruit platters on the side, just testing the waters, and it is going great. What I want to do is build a foundation for my kids, and be able to leave something behind for them to build on. I must say my future is looking very bright, and it is all thanks to God and Second Harvest Food Bank.
When they ask me who did it all, I can say God. Keep your eyes open, because this will not be the last time you hear about Shandra Petion!
Never give up on yourself. You never know what you are capable of doing until you do it. To everyone at Second Harvest Food Bank and everyone who supports the culinary program, you have played a part in helping me get to where I am today. I want you to know I am very grateful for your commitment and dedication. Thank you for supporting the program, and helping people like me having a better future. God bless you all.
Culinary Training Program Graduate