Robert Raper – June ’16

Robert Raper enrolled in NECAT’s Culinary Arts Job Training Program in June of 2016, less than two months after being released from federal prison. At the age of 45, Robert had spent roughly half his life in jail.

He always loved to cook and, after being introduced to NECAT at a reentry job fair through a partner social service organization, he was eager to start the program.

Robert is grateful for NECAT’s technical training and for helping him get ServSafe certified. He also sees incredible growth in himself – “the streets hardened me – I was a force to be reckoned with out there, and I couldn’t take feedback from anyone”, but all that changed at NECAT. Robert is now open-minded and eager to learn from others. “NECAT made me better.”

Every day he reminds himself of the life lessons his instructors shared with him, including empowerment mantras that remind him that only he can determine his future. During his time at NECAT, Robert moved from a shelter to independent housing and, at one of NECAT’s on-site job fairs, he interviewed with Legal Seafood and immediately began working there part-time while finishing his NECAT training. “I love my work. I love cooking. I love seeing people’s faces when they eat my food. I love that I know how to cook according to ServSafe guidelines, and it’s all because of NECAT.” Robert’s long-term plan is to work his way up the career ladder at Legal and eventually open his own restaurant or food truck.