As we head into the home stretch of our 2nd session, the students of Open Gate International’s Culinary Arts Program are gearing up for their graduation. Week six transitions into the sweet elements of the program and everyone looks forward to it. Our students will be learning pastry, cakes, custards and cookies. All of the culinary elements at the graduation ceremony are prepared by our students.

We have ten students in this session and each of them has not only identified where they would like to work in the culinary field, but we have already set up interviews at those restaurants and some have already been hired.

Even though none of our current students knew each other prior to enrolling in our program, they have cultivated a close friendship and are actively making plans to stay connected after graduation. Each student is encouraged to create their own Legacy Team; a group of three or four people committed to encouraging the student and holding them accountable to stay focused on their goals. Some of our students have grown so close, they have asked to be on each other’s Legacy Team. It’s truly remarkable to see the transformation of each of their lives taking place every week.

Recently, one of our students was asked to share her story at an Open Gate International event. Even though she was nervous, she knew she was surrounded by her support team at OGI and she did a great job. What a privilege it is for us to be entrusted with the life of someone who has suffered so much. She is truly an inspiration to all of us. She knows her future is bright and her dreams that she once thought were impossible are now actually within her grasp.

Judy and the OGI staff are also actively maintaining a mentorship role in the lives of the graduates from our first session. Four of the seven are employed full time and are taking steps towards financial independence. One of the graduates who initially came to us in a homeless situation has gone on to get his driver’s license, a reliable vehicle and just moved into a new apartment. He has never been so happy and fulfilled in his entire life and credits his relationship with us and his overall experience at Open Gate International’s Culinary Arts Program as the reason for the smile on his face each day. His life has truly been completely transformed and he is on his way to a bright future.

Judy and the OGI staff are consistently looking for ways to improve each class and the overall experience as a whole for the students. They have introduced new technology for this session by way of Keynote presentations during the life skills/mentorship portion and the review at the end of each class. The students are responding with overwhelming positivity and expressing that the addition of the visual aids is helping them to retain the information even better.