Deon Winters wanted to cook his whole life and that decision is what saved him from the criminal justice system. He enrolled in the free Culinary Arts certificate program at San Diego Continuing Education (SDCE), located just a few miles away from his home in Lincoln Park.
Before wearing a chef’s uniform, Winters spent most of his twenties in between prison and probation, earning his GED at Ironwood State. “I am one of the stories you read about or see in the movies, from the streets to the classroom,” he said. “Growing up in Southeastern San Diego you’re already labeled by law enforcement.”
“SDCE is a rich representation of San Diego’s most marginalized communities. Our students are among the most diverse in California culturally, ethnically and educationally.” said Carlos O. Turner Cortez, Ph.D., President of SDCE. “As adult learners returning to school, their courageous choice to enroll in SDCE after facing many hurdles in their lives will open doors to new opportunities for themselves and for generations to come.”
SDCE’s 36-week Culinary Arts career training program emphasizes the basic principles of cooking, theory, food prep, safe food handling and pastry making. Students practice developing menus and managing food costs to gain a better understanding of the restaurant business.
After certification completion, SDCE graduates are ready for entry-level employment or can transition to San Diego Mesa College with up to six (6) college credits earned toward an Associate Degree in Culinary Arts/Culinary Management.
“The beauty of SDCE’s Culinary and Bakeshop Academy is that there are many ways to be successful,” said Winters. “Even if you don’t have money, they can help you.” Winters was a part of SDCE’s Rising to Success (R2S) PATHWAYS program and received vouchers for class materials.
Winters credits Chef Liz Trevino at SDCE for helping him fight for his education. “I was ready to give up on this when I had to go through the courts again.” His probation officers attempted to pull him away from school. He attended class four days each week for eight hours each day. “Now I don’t have to deal with them at all anymore and it’s because of this school and Chef Liz. The judge saw my progression and commitment and she liked it.”
This fall Winters will pursue an Associate of Science Degree in Culinary Arts/Culinary Management at San Diego Mesa College with a San Diego Promise scholarship, which provides two years of tuition.
SDCE’s free Culinary and Bakeshop Academy is located in Mountain View at the Educational Cultural Complex and in Point Loma at West City Campus.