If these walls could talk, they would tell you about Mike, whose journey took him from prison to the streets to Culinary School, with the help of Open Door Ministries…
As a teenager growing up in Winston Salem, I was into drugs and drinking. It was a way to escape. That unfortunately got me in a lot of trouble with the law. I ended up in jail several times and bad choices ended me up in prison. After I was released, my probation housing arrangement fell through, and I went to the street. My parole officer contacted Open Door Ministries (ODM), and my case got transferred to High Point. I came to ODM October 19th last year. I worked hard on the computers to find a job. I had worked in fork lifts and manufacturing before, but I never got a call about those jobs. I was discouraged. Idle hands are the devil’s workshop, so I knew I had to find work or I’d end up back on the street.
When I was at Johnston County prison, I got baking experience and ended up as head baker. In November I learned of the culinary program at Providence Place in Winston Salem. The next class wasn’t until January. It was a long wait. During that time I helped out in the kitchen at ODM, and volunteered at their events to give back. I couldn’t just start the program, though, I had to be accepted. I took a reading comprehension and math readiness course since cooking requires reading recipes and converting fractions. I passed both tests. I started January 7. I met with the chefs, and they were very positive and encouraging. But I was still doubtful this was for me. They told me success stories. It turns out I was pleasantly surprised.
It wasn’t easy—I got up at 4:00 am to go to the Greensboro transportation Hub, then I had to switch to the Winston Salem bus to get to the school. It is a two hour commute each way. The class lasts 90 days, and I am almost finished. I have good grades and passed the serve safe test—only one of two people in my class passed it. Now I am in the middle of my internship and am finishing this week. I graduate next Thursday, and some of the staff are coming to celebrate with me. I may go into the residency program next– it lasts two years, and I could become a manager. I like where I am doing my internship at Mary’s Gourmet Dining Room in Winston Salem. I need to get a job and get some money saved up.
Between Open Door Ministries and their staff, and the Providence Culinary Training Program, I now have a second look on life. I can’t wait to see where it takes me. I must thank the chefs, the class, and Open Door Ministries and family for their support and believing in me.
If this article helps one person, it’s worth it. Just because you had a rough start doesn’t mean you have to end up that way.
**note: Michael graduated from Providence Culinary Training (affiliated with Second Harvest Food Bank in Winston Salem) April 18, 2019, first in his class.