Those Who Persevere, Breakthrough

You never know where life is going to take you. Sometimes you can get into situations you never in your wildest dreams thought you would be in. Today, families and friends gathered to celebrate 30 adults, who persevered the hardest of circumstances and graduate from Second Harvest Food Bank’s Culinary Training Program. The program provides at-risk adults with the life-skills and culinary training needed to peruse a sustainable career in the food industry.

Congresswoman Val Demings, the keynote speaker, emphasized each student’s courage to break through the hard times and to fight to make a better life for themselves. In closing, Demings quoted Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., “The ultimate measure of a man {or woman} is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.”

Second Harvest gave out two awards that morning to students. Crystol Odige was recognized for perfect attendance and Evan Lane, received the top student in the graduating class award.

After moving to Orlando to help care for her mother, Crystol struggled to find a job due to her lack of experience. When she enrolled in the Culinary Training Program, she was extremely committed to learning and went above in beyond in both the kitchen and the classroom. Crystol is now working for Crestline Hotels.

Evan was one of the youngest in the program but acted as mature as the older students. From day one, Evan knew that cooking was in his blood. He continuously worked hard to excel in the classroom and in the kitchen. During the 16-week program, he learned knife skills and food safety, as well as mother sauces, three skills he uses every day at his new job at Too Jay’s Gourmet Deli in Ocoee.

Thank you Congresswoman Val Demings for celebrating this milestone with our graduates. To date, the Culinary Training Program has graduated 280 students with a 100 percent placement in better-than-minimum wage jobs. The program is shortening the line of need in our community thanks to the generous support of community partners, employers and financial supporters.

To learn more about the Culinary Training Program or apply, visit

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