ARCHS' Culinary Institute Cooks Up New Direction for Female Ex-Offenders

ARCHS' Culinary Training Institute graduated 14 female ex-offenders on July 1, 2014, after they completed an eight-week class at St. Louis Community College-Forest Park.

Participants in the program are currently under state or federal supervision with probation and parole officers in St. Louis City or County. Through the ARCHS' program, they received academic culinary training leading to "ServSafe" certification. They will also receive job training from St. Louis Community College and job placement, wrap around social services support, and life skills preparation from Employment Connection.

"I've learned my lesson, but because of my past, I've been working dead-end jobs and I'm ready for my life to go on," said Matika Kelley. "The Institute is opening up a lot of doors for me, and I feel like the chain and ball have been taken off of me. I'm tired of being condemned for something I did several years ago, and this opportunity will let me show what I'm all about."

The program will allow participants access to career paths as a chef, head cook, line cook, institutional cook, and more in the culinary field. According to a National Institute of Corrections Report, the number of incarcerated women has skyrocketed, at rates exceeding men .

Institute participant Jami Hobbs said she plans to enroll in college this fall to continue honing her culinary skills, as she looks for employment.

"I have had several incarcerations, five in the last seven years, so where I came from and where I'm at now, I'm honored to be a part of this opportunity that will help me get a good job in the culinary industry," Hobbs said. "Having this training will allow me to make the kind of money that I know I can live off of and take care of my children with, as well."

ARCHS partners with Lutheran Foundation of St. Louis, Employment Connection, and St. Louis Community College to provide this program.

"This unique partnership is a crucial component to decreasing recidivism rates for these participants," said Les Johnson, ARCHS' Vice President of Family and Community Programs. "They are receiving a second chance, providing opportunities for employment that they may not have had."

If you know of any employment opportunities for the graduates, then please contact Les Johnson via email or call 314-534-0022.