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Serving up great programs

Five men at the Western Tidewater Regional Jail recently experienced the joy of success as they completed an inaugural N2Work program and received their food service certification.

The inmates learned the basics of food preparation, maintenance and management. They spent two nights per week for four months in a classroom setting, and the rest of their class time was spent in hands-on training in the kitchen working alongside Aramark staff.

The students also took an exam from the National Restaurant Association to receive their certification and lastly prepared a meal of their own choosing.

The course cost was $400, and Aramark absorbed it for each of the students.

Most of the students had worked in food service at some point prior to their incarceration. But they didn’t fool themselves into thinking they already knew everything; they took the class anyway with great enthusiasm and learned a lot.

One of the goals of this sort of classes, of course, is to reduce recidivism by giving inmates the tools they need to be successful once they have completed their sentences. But listening to the words of the students themselves shows that the personal fulfillment they found in completing the course is the most important thing.

“It really let me know that I’ve got a chance,” Henifa Bullock said.

“It really gives you a sense of self-worth,” Anthony Fleming said.

“I’ll be able to use it … to make a career out of it if I want to,” Jesse Munday said.

“Everything’s not lost in this year,” Wendell Whitfield said. “The year that I’ve been here won’t have been a total waste.”

There is joy and fulfillment in learning something, in doing useful work, and in serving others — not only literally serving food but also doing things for others that they want or need.

These students who took this class have learned part of that lesson and will continue to learn it as they complete their sentences, get back out into society and seek gainful employment.

We wish them well and hope they are able to use this class as a springboard to a new life. We also thank the Western Tidewater Regional Jail, Aramark and all those involved in this class for offering something for our citizens to better themselves.