Shaqueira and her husband Naeem showed up for their first day of training on March 4th, full of hope for what NECAT would bring to their lives. They had been living in a shelter with their two young boys, ages 1 and 3, struggling to make ends meet, working odd jobs in the culinary field. They both liked to cook, and knew that professional training would help them get ahead. “After our first class with Chef Bob, I was so excited about what we were going to learn.” Shaqueira says, “He talked about mise en place—having everything in order—tools, skills, attitude—I knew right then that NECAT was right for us. We would find mise en place in both our personal and professional lives.
Nine days later their world turned upside down.
The coronavirus, a distant problem, began to spread fast in Massachusetts. To protect students and staff, NECAT had to suspend classes on March 13th and Shaqueira and Naeem were out of work, out of school and homeless.
The beacon of hope that they’d discovered in their first week at NECAT, looked, at first, as if it had been extinguished. What of their dreams of becoming chefs? Where would they find work? How would they even feed their children?
But Shaqueira and Naeem weren’t facing those fears alone—they were part of the NECAT family now. Our staff stepped in to help them secure food and offered advice on how to find temporary work. We gave them an emergency stipend from our Student Fund to help them cover living expenses. They remain engaged in learning with instructional videos and one-on-one tutoring sessions with our Culinary Instructors.
“The staff at NECAT has been so helpful to me and my family.” says Shaqueira, “They’ve ensured we have food and meals. The cash assistance has been a huge help, too. I am so grateful I chose this school.”
There are many stories just like Shaqueria and Naeem’s. With your help, we can continue to provide vital services and assistance to our NECAT family. Please consider making a donation here.