Robert – A Culinary Arts Career in Chicago

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At the age of 13, Robert’s mother faded from the picture due to her battle with drug addiction. As a result, Robert was forced to live with his grandparents, who wanted to support and provide for Robert but lacked the financial resources needed to care for another person. In an effort to assist his grandparents, Robert became involved in drug trafficking. The money Robert was able to make in short periods of time was appealing to him. Selling drugs and making money became his main concern for four years. Robert was charged multiple times for possession and intent to sell. “The habit was a hard one to break” he explained to his mentor.

When Robert enrolled in the Right Turn Career-Focused Transition Program at Lawrence Hall Youth Services in Chicago IL, he was given a Case Manager and matched with a Right Turn mentor. Robert worked with his Right Turn Case Manager to create an Individualized Career Development Plan and establish his goals. He planned to graduate high school, attain employment, work toward a certification, and gain experience in the food industry. Robert’s overall goal was to attend the Culinary Arts program at Harold Washington Community College within 2 years of graduating high school.  Robert struggled with attendance during his senior year… to the point where his diploma was in jeopardy.  His Right Turn mentor worked with him to schedule weekly face-to-face meetings in school and followed up with all of his teachers. After much hard work, Robert successfully graduated in June 2016. His next goal was employment. Robert was able to successfully attain temporary employment with potential permanency through a summer program called One Summer Chicago. This was very exciting for him, not only because it was his first job, but also because it offered a link to the culinary industry–with an Assistant Cook position at a local restaurant. However, Robert found that his bi-weekly stipend wasn’t enough to support both him and his grandparents, so his case manager collaborated with a Lawrence Hall employer to find him another position that would allow him to earn more money. With the two part-time positions, Robert was able to slowly stop drug trafficking. By the end of the summer in 2016, Robert earned his Food Safety certification and became a full time employee at Potbelly Sandwich Company.

During his time at Right Turn, Robert graduated high school, held two part-time jobs, stopped selling drugs, gained full-time employment, and earned a food safety certification. In Summer 2017, Robert had been working at Potbelly for a year and was promoted to shift lead (supervisor) at his location. If he continues on the management track, Robert can become a store manager at another store within as little as a year. Robert’s Right Turn follow-up plan includes maintaining employment and enrolling into his Culinary Arts program before the end of 2017.

For more information about Lawrence Hall, click here.

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