Graduation day at NECAT meant that our center was filled with bustling energy, as families and friends filed in to see their proud graduates collect their Culinary Certificates. We celebrated the graduates’ hard work over a delicious feast – a menu of specialty dishes prepared by the graduates to show off the skills acquired during their NECAT training. NECAT’s last graduation before the start of the Covid outbreak was on February 28.
“When we closed our doors on March 13, we didn’t have a clue what was in store for us or our students, whose plans for employment were put on hold. But, I’m very proud to say that we have an incredible team here who was able to very quickly adapt our curriculum so that we could continue to offer it virtually,” said Executive Director, Joey Cuzzi.
On July 6, NECAT was able to reopen, welcoming back students in small groups to complete the required in-person elements of their training. This Friday marks the third group to graduate, for a total of 28 individuals who persevered through extraordinary circumstances to finish our program. While the formerly boisterous atmosphere of graduation day at NECAT has been muted, celebrations have been able to continue, virtually, through Facebook Live. Graduations have remained poignant events with family and friends watching from home, adding their comments and love in real time.
Graduates have also learned valuable transferrable skills – the importance of team work, professionalism, accountability and emotional regulation. And perhaps, most significantly, these 28 individuals have learned that persistence and sustained hard work pays off.
“You should remember as you move forward, that there aren’t that many people who could have done what you did,” Ms. Cuzzi told a graduating group. “If you’re ever in doubt about your own personal strength, your own commitment, your own ability to follow through, your own ability to learn under the most difficult circumstances, you have proven that it’s possible. And you have proven – I hope, to yourself and to anybody else in your world – that you have what it takes, which is going to be very important in this job market.”
Despite the challenges facing the food services industry, there are great jobs available and our graduates have already secured positions in assisted living facilities, hospitals and restaurants, including Haley House and Spaulding Rehab. Most are currently interviewing with several of our partners. NECAT’s career services team continues to support graduates as they navigate their new careers and work to climb the ranks in the kitchen. We are so proud of the determination showed by these students, some waiting nearly eight months to graduate, and we cannot wait to see what they accomplish.