Do you remember your first time in the kitchen?
I still remember the first full meal that I ever cooked. It was Mother’s Day 2001, and I was 13. I was so excited to show my mother all that I had gleaned from her and my grandmother over 13 LONG years.
I went all out that day. I made T-bone steaks, roasted potatoes and veggies, biscuits, and my little sister’s favorite: red Kool-Aid. The independence and worth that I experienced was far beyond what any adult, at the time, could attempt to convey to me. I was ready for the world in that moment.
That feeling is exactly what Dyeatra Carter-Williams, Karen Douglas and the S.O.S. Strengthening our Students program want to provide for their students every summer. Their Let’s Get Cooking 101 is a six-to-eight week class that takes place from 9:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m. Saturdays during the summer at Emmanuel Baptist Church, 7901 Quincy Ave. The program serves students as young as eight and as old as 17.
The program is designed to teach students how to choose and prepare healthy foods.
“They love to eat,” Williams said. “So [we] provide the hands-on learning and keep them engaged.”
That hands-on learning is what makes the program a success, Williams said. Since the start of this program three years ago, Let’s Get Cooking 101 has served approximately 95 students and has broadened their impact each summer.
Williams plans to further that expansion by implementing a re-entry program for women. She also has an eight-week program for young women aging out of foster care that starts this month.
Samuel Register, the first male student of the Let’s Get Cooking 101 program, has taken classes for three years. He graduated from Warrensville Heights High School this year and will be attending Hiram College in the fall. He plans to major in business administration and hospitality.
When asked what he plans to do in the future, he said: “I want to open my own restaurant. I love cooking…but I want to know all aspects of the business” too.
Samuel also shared highlights of his time with S.O.S.: “The most exciting thing I learned how to make was healthy macaroni and cheese. When you think of healthy macaroni and cheese you think, ‘Oh this is not going to taste good’. I was wrong. There are so many different recipes to use to eat in a more healthy way. I can make high-end healthy macaroni and cheese. When I get to school, I would love if I got a job in the cafeteria. I would love to continue to cook for the students.”
Williams said, “You have to make these youth aware [of opportunities by] expanding their horizons, exposing them to something outside of their circle. We as an urban community have to start thinking of survival on different levels. We need to get back to the basics.”