In a youth vocational program from the Boys & Girls Clubs of Coachella Valley, preparing for a future career all starts with the organization’s pizza kitchen.
“[This program] teaches kids the importance of teamwork, being punctual, producing and selling a product, supply and demand, and budgeting,” said Quinton Egson, president and CEO of Boys & Girls Clubs of Coachella Valley.
The pizza kitchen vocational program was born in 2020 with the support of one “generous donor,” Egson said. The idea behind the initiative is to offer different professional opportunities and guidance to youth that will eventually help them compete in the workforce.
The primary focus of the program is to use the industrial kitchen and pizza oven in the John Carroll and Jim O’Brien Clubhouse, the Indio facility that the club has used since the 1960s, as a launchpad for members to acquire employability skills.
For Egson, his favorite part of the program is demonstrating the many careers that are possible.
“We’ve had business owners, chefs, pilots and managers speak to our kids about preparing for their future,” he said. “This program can serve as a model for children to understand and prepare for their career aspirations. We are excited about what we’ve done, what we are doing and what we will do in the future.”
Other benefits of the after-school program are getting children to try new foods, like more fruits and veggies, increasing their nutritional knowledge and building greater self-efficacy.
One past Boys & Girls Club member, Jeffery Morris, who is now the operations manager of Raising Cane’s Chicken Fingers in Palm Springs, said he learned a lot there as a kid.
“I learned how to cook, prepare, serve and charge for food,” he said. “I was given skills to be successful for the rest of my life. I have spent 27 years in hospitality and can now look back and say that I’m a successful restaurant operator due to what I learned at the Boys & Girls Clubs of Coachella Valley Indio clubhouse.”
Recently, Morris was a guest speaker for the initiative. Tiffany Mata, who oversees the program, said the talk meant a lot to the nearly 40 kids that attended the session.
“We were able to enjoy delicious Raising Cane’s food while Jeffery spoke about how he got started in the food industry,” she said. “The more he shared his background, the more the kids were able to relate to him. They saw a person just like them.”