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Congratulating Our Budding Chefs

2016-07-18-MelissaG-compPhoto credit: S:US

There’s nothing quite like a graduation ceremony to empower a young person to take on life’s challenges. The same rings true for the 11 individuals with intellectual and/or developmental disabilities who recently graduated from the Basic Culinary Arts Program at Kingsborough Community College. In a spacious lounge overlooking a secluded section of the Brooklyn shoreline, each budding chef proudly received his or her certificate of course completion.

Standing in front of a mural depicting the graduates hard at work in the college kitchen, Nedra C. (below) stated, “I’m so happy that we made all kinds of desserts, and we made pasta, oatmeal, grilled cheese and grits …we worked so hard!” Another one of the graduates, Melissa G., simply announced, “I’m happy I graduated!”

2017-07-18-NedraC-compUnder the guidance of Chef Mark D’Alessandro, Assistant Professor in the Tourism and Hospitality Department (right) and other chefs, each graduate acquired much sought-after culinary skills. This is the second year that Chef Mark is working with S:US. He enjoys seeing each of his students grow in excitement and skill. And he taught them not only how to make dishes that they were familiar with but also challenged them to get outside their comfort zone, including cutting vegetables and stirring pots of food. Addressing the graduates he said, “Each day you were here you experienced something new – I made you try things that you weren’t familiar with, like beans and lentil salad…and watched you look forward to the times when we made desserts.  What you guys might not realize is that you actually teach me while you’re here, I learn things from you:  the way that I see you interact and get excited about certain things…so each year I get to learn new things and progress what I teach a little bit further. I want to thank you guys for that and what you’ve done for me.” As a token of his appreciation, Chef Mark made lunch for the graduates and attending guests. This was one occasion when they could hang up their aprons and enjoy a scrumptious meal prepared by their teacher.

Our VP of Developmental Disabilities, Jajaida Gonzalez said, “I don’t think anyone understands how proud and grateful we are for someone to believe in our individuals. A lot of times people look at our individuals and think of disability first and don’t see their ability.” 

So what does the future hold for our culinary graduates? Each of them is seeking employment in the food industry. In the meantime, don’t be surprised if you see some of them stepping up to the challenge of preparing food for our 2016 Harvest Luncheon on September 23 using fresh ingredients grown in our Urban Farms.



Click here to see more photos from this special event.


* Left to Right:  Robert H., Kenny P., Robert T., Valerie S., Israel C., Nedra C, Pedro B., Melissa G. and Elijah K.

** BACK ROW-Left to Right:  Yvette McBean, S:US Day Habilitation Director; Jared Drew, S:US Day
Habilitation Specialist; Rowhel Forbes, S:US Day Habilitation Specialist; Jason Dubrow,
S:US Business Development Manager; Christine Beckner, Dean of Continuing Education;
Chef Mark D’Alessandro, Assistant Professor, Tourism and Hospitality; John Aaron, Director of Marketing, Corporate Training, Contracts & Grants, Kingsborough Community College; FRONT ROW-Left to Right:  Takeema Smith, S:US Day Habilitation Specialist; Patty D’Agosta, Continuing Education Manager, Kingsborough Community College; Jajaida Gonzalez, VP Developmental Disabilities

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