Without the help of Goodwill Industries, Karmon Williams may never have had the opportunity to train for the career of her dreams.
She wants to cook for senior citizens in an assisted-living facility.
Williams came to Goodwill as a referral from the Easter Seals for vocational rehabilitation. She started off in a training program in the Martinez retail store.
With remedial help and a couple of retakes, she was able pass the entrance exam and is now in college, something her family never thought she’d be able to do, she said.
Now she is one of 17 students enrolled in the inaugural culinary arts program at Helms College, which is operated by Goodwill Industries.
“So many of the students who come to us, some of them are homeless, some of them have physical limitations,” said Goodwill Executive Director Meredith Stiff.
The college is designed to help people of all backgrounds gain the skills necessary to work in mid-level fields.
“The class is a mixture of genders, races and socioeconomic backgrounds. We think that’s one of the things that make (Helms College) special, too. Anybody can study here,” Stiff said.
On Dec. 6, representatives from Wells Fargo presented the school with a $60,000 donation, which will be used to fund scholarships and toward the completion of a new pastry kitchen.
“When they approached us about Helms College, we were intrigued initally, and then eventually impressed by the tremendous work they’re doing here. It’s innovative, comprehensive and a wonderful example of the leveraging of public and private resources,” said Connie Bryant, vice president and senior community development officer for the Greater Georgia Region of Wells Fargo.
In addition to new kitchens, the school is building Edgars Grill, an upscale restaurant that will be run by master chef Marcel Biro.
The facility will provide Augusta with a new fine-dining option while providing real-world, hands-on experience for students.
“The student will have a real-life experience and opportunity to display their talents, so they will have quite a résumé when they leave,” Stiff said.
Students are paired with mentors outside of the school and counselors inside of the school to offer as much support as possible for students to succeed, and to provide them with as many contacts as possible for employment after graduation.
For now, the school only offers the culinary arts and a custodial program.
As the school grows, the catalog will be expanded to include programs in medical, automotive technology and construction industries.
Williams said she is really looking forward to beginning classwork in the pastry kitchen. She also said she’s thankful for the opportunity she’s been given to further her education.
“I couldn’t have done it without the help of Goodwill,” Williams said.
“We’re real proud of her,” Stiff said. “She is really going to be a remarkable success story.”