Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Araceli's Story

by: Maryann Weprin from July 9

Common Threads works with 8-12 year olds, even though high school aged kids have been a long time conversation in our offices. We want to include them, we want to make an impression on their lives, but there is so much to do and so little time.

None-the-less, in the summer of 2009, we dove right in. Common Threads partnered with Chicago Public Schools to bring high school students to the Common Threads kitchens. We wanted the students to assist the chef instructor and be able to work with the kids one-on-one. We wanted the high school students to help guide our mini chefs while helping out in the kitchen. We were nervous, almost scared about what would happen. Would they be helpful? Would they get in the way? Would they show up? Araceli Villanueva eased our nerves almost immediately. She showed up early, she stayed late, the kids and chef instructor loved her, and she tells us the feeling is mutual. She helps set up class, she welcomes the kids and serves as a great role model. She helps keep the kitchen moving, she helps kids with knife skills, and she is the chefs’ right hand girl.

Our program has made Araceli see that she really loves kids. So much that she wants to become a teacher. She has been accepted into Northern Illinois University in DeKalb, Illinois and plans to have her own classroom one day. “I have learned so much from the chef instructors and now know that I can do anything. By giving me the opportunity to be a part of class I have learned that I want to be a teacher and I have seen how important it is to give back to the community,” said Araceli. This school year, Common Threads was lucky enough to have Araceli as part of our Wednesday afternoon Kennedy King College class and she has signed on as a senior intern during our 6th year of summer camp programming.

Common Threads will add two more high school girls this summer to help Araceli and our chefs at camp. We believe it is important to include high school aged students in our kitchens. We know that our volunteers make a difference in our classes and we believe that high school volunteers have the ability to make a huge difference too. In general, volunteers serve as excellent role models for our kids and enable us to allow our kids to use real kitchen equipment each day in class. We believe that when we add high school aged students to the mix we are creating a full circle. We love that our mini chefs can learn from the high school students, the high school students can learn from the adult volunteers, the mini chefs learn from the adult volunteers and round and round it goes. We believe there is great power in all three age groups working together to create a meal. Each generation will bring a new experience to the future of Common Threads mini chefs!

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