When hitting a rough patch in life, a listening ear and compassionate spirit can make all the difference. Meet Carla Domingo, workforce development employment navigator at Forge City Works, a longtime restauranteur turned teacher and counselor for youth and adult culinary training students. She has walked alongside students for six years throughout their transition from student to intern to employee and is our 2019 Catalyst for Change Award winner.
FareStart’s Catalyst Kitchens (CK) members nominate outstanding individuals at their organizations each year for our Catalyst for Change award, which is designed to recognize staff dedicated to student success. We started this award in 2014 to highlight staff who share their talent and energy directly with students
Nominated by her colleague, Trainee and Employer Engagement Manager Becky McGuigan, Carla is committed to the ongoing success of her students with a focus on strong employer partner relationships and productive internship experiences. Carla works alongside students in their first days at an internship to help them transition into a new workspace and slowly remove their culinary “training wheels.”
Carla embodies the “tough on standards, tender on people” approach in her student relationships. Her no-nonsense mentality holds students accountable for their work and challenges students to see their true potential. When asked about her students’ greatest challenges, Carla admits that sometimes a student’s biggest barrier is themselves. “They have so much potential, it can be sad to see that no one has told them that,” says Carla. Her goal is to show students how capable they are by fostering a non-judgmental space for growth.
Carla takes a hands-on approach to teaching starting on day one during student orientation. She likes to be part of the process as they move through their internships, successes and struggles in the kitchen and personal challenges. Trust building is a huge component of her work with students – she says it’s imperative to do what you say you will and slowly build connection over time.
Forge City Works runs both youth and adult culinary programs, helping adults find entry-level restaurant positions, and youth find customer service-based positions. They’ve continued to provide social service support through the COVID-19 crisis and have stayed in touch with students through self-care classes and regular check ins. They’ve even graduated five students in their youth program and secured internships for two students at local food pantries supporting emergency meals relief programs. In this way, their impact is even greater – finding work for their students and providing necessary hunger relief through their local partner organizations.
We’d also like to celebrate our Catalyst for Change nominees for their dedication and the advocacy of their organizations.
Highlights from our 2019 nominations:
Smith Saint Louis, FAST Program Manager, Telamon
“…to say that she turned the Café around is an understatement. Everything, everything is so much better – the food, presentations, the catering arm has grown, and she just finished her first cohort – three individuals with intellectual disabilities will be graduating and are ready for employment. Smith is a hands-on leader who does not ask others to do something she would not herself.” – Erika Uebel, Program Development Specialist at Telamon
Kahtan Alamery, Chef Trainer, Farming Hope
“Kahtan is the Sage of Farming Hope, our source of wisdom and centering. His attitude is one of strong love and optimism even with those who are not optimistic about themselves. He often says, ‘We are one team. We rise and fail together. We are all on the same level, from the dishwasher to the director.’ But he also lives this inclusive, expansive vision out.” – Jamie Stark, Co-Founder at Farming Hope
Liz Holland, Head Chef Trainer, Inspiration Corporation
“When there are competing demands between the business and the training program, Chef Liz is always the staff member to ensure that staff are "putting the student experience first" in all decisions that are made. Chef Liz is an amazing advocate for our students!” – Jennifer Miller Rehfeldt, Chief Program Officer at Inspiration Corporation
Charles Harris, Chef Instructor, F BITES
“He takes his role into the community by feeding people who are homeless, mentally ill, and physically challenged. Since having Charles, our suspension rate has dropped 20%, attendance went up 80%, and we are now looked at to becoming a best practice program.” – Bobby Anderson, Founder/Executive Director at F BITES
Tara Sullivan, Head Barista Instructor, F BITES
Tara is a very patient person; she excels when it comes to training and working with students. Tara understands the importance of teaching the new learners the soft skills needed to enter the work force today, and she does it with a smile! Tara's impact on the students at the HS has been immeasurable in my opinion. – Jamie Anderson, Chief Operations Officer at F BITES
Thank you to all nominees, nominators and all those that work hard every day to find meaningful careers for their students throughout our network.