Cooking Confidence: An Old Dream Realized

Written by Jesenia Hernandez

Danyelle (right) with manager Kaitlin and coworker David

In April, Danyelle Woodward joined the Collegium Café team as a work readiness participant for the Work First Goodwill Program.

“Because of my background I was placed in the Collegium Café as my only option to gain work experience. When I started, I knew that I didn’t want to cook, but I came in with an open mind.”

Danyelle moved to the Tri-Cities a year ago looking for a second chance and a fresh start for herself and her daughters. The first week she joined us, she was very shy, nervous, and unsure that she was capable of the job. When asked if she could do something, her reply was very timid and unsure. “Maybe” or “I can try,” Danyelle would say.

“Working at the café has helped me build better relationships with people. I’ve learned what it means to show hospitality and be more understanding about people’s situations. We don’t always know what people are going through. That’s the biggest thing I learned.

People on my team like Berenice have been so loving and caring. They helped me build motivation and confidence that I can do anything I want to.”

Although Danyelle was once certain that she did not want to cook, she learned to make food for our customers as well her children. “My daughter loves Mexican rice and Berenice even taught me how to make it for her!”

Danyelle’s confidence has grown in a way that is inspiring to others. “I can do that! Can I help you?” she is now known for asking. Aside from learning customer service and cooking, she took the initiative to join Spanish courses, get to know more people on staff and in community, and attend meetings outside of her comfort zone.

Recently, Danyelle got a new job as a teacher assistant at the daycare center her daughter attends. She remembers attending daycare as a child and always asking her teacher, “Can I help you? Can I help you when I get older?” She initially wanted to apply for a cook position at the center but her love for others, confidence, and a recollection of an old dream landed her a teacher’s assistant position instead! She is continuing a positive path forward and excitedly looking for an apartment and community for herself and family!

Collegium Café is an initiative of Broetje Family Trust, which stewards a family legacy of “bearing fruit that will last” through servant leadership, community building, and philanthropy. The Café provides a nurturing gathering space to cultivate relationships while hosting a workforce readiness program for those seeking a second chance. Workforce training builds participants’ understanding of their gifts, passion and purpose, and skills for future success as an individual and a community member.

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