Success Story: Kenyetta (Culinary Skills Program)

Kenyetta left home at age 17. She married young and operated two restaurants with her husband, but when her marriage ended she didn’t want to look back. “I didn’t ever want to have to call my ex-husband for a reference, so I left my restaurant experience off my resume. It looked like I didn’t have any work experience during those seven years.”

Kenyetta moved to Seattle, worked several part-time jobs and went to school to earn her aesthetician license to start her own business. She also took a job as an activities director at a home for people with dementia to supplement her income. As she was starting her new job, Kenyetta received news that her mother had passed away. To deal with her grief, she devoted herself to the people she cared for. “I gave them everything I couldn’t give to my mom.” But after eight months, she was terminated because of her past criminal record. “I was devastated—not about losing my job but losing these people I really cared about.”

Kenyetta decided she was ready to go back into the restaurant business. “There are two things I’m great at—taking care of people and cooking.” She considered enrolling in a food truck program but didn’t want to take on any more student loans.

“That’s when I found Goodwill. I was happy to start from the beginning again—I wanted to relearn everything because I hadn’t cooked professionally for more than 10 years.”

Now 37, Kenyetta has graduated from Goodwill’s Culinary Skills program and is starting her new career with the Seafarers International Union as a culinary specialist.  “I’ve sold my car and packed up my house. For the next year, I plan to work and travel the world. I want to go to Morocco and London and the Middle East and Africa—and I want to keep learning! At each place I visit, I hope to take cooking classes to learn different cuisines. Because food brings people together.”

Kenyetta is grateful for the support she received at Goodwill. “I tell people that Goodwill has great programs and the people there really care about helping you succeed. You don’t get that everywhere. It’s been a blessing to me.”

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