High school dropout now an aspiring chef

Goldy Oren is achieving her dream of becoming a chef thanks to a Boise alternative school. She’s also completing high school at the age of 16, after dropping out of Eagle High School.

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Goldy is preparing a chicken teriyaki meal for a detox center in Boise.

“A lot of kids were mean and weren’t nice to me,” said Goldy about her experience at Eagle High. “I got depressed and suicidal a lot of the time and didn’t go to class. I decided I needed to make a change.”

In June, Goldy was accepted into Life’s Kitchen trainee program – a free 16-week job and life-skills training program for teens and young adults.

“When we met Goldy she wasn’t going to school and she told us she had been lying around at home,” said Deonda Kawaguchi, the education director at Life’s Kitchen. “She was shy and not sure of herself but we knew Goldy would be a good fit.”

At Eagle High, Goldy struggled socializing with her peers — something she says is still a challenge but is improving at Life’s Kitchen.

“I have made more friends while learning how to cook than I ever made in high school,” Goldy said. “We are a team, working together to complete a task.”

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Goldy Oren

Trainees operates a cafe and catering business in Boise, serving lunch four times a week. These real-world businesses provide on-the-job work experience to at-risk teens and young adults while generating revenue to support the program.

“At least 55 percent of our trainees have dropped out of school,” said Kawaguchi. “We offer free GED tutoring for our trainee’s and even help them pay for the GED test.”

Goldy is enrolled in a GED program and plans to finish by the end of the year. She graduates as a trainee from Life’s kitchen on Friday and plans to apply for a job at Fork – a restaurant in downtown Boise.

“My grandparents were upset when I decided to dropout of high school, but now they have seen how far I’ve come,” Goldy said. “I’m proud that my family is seeing what I have accomplished.”

When she graduates this week she will have gone through a three phase culinary competency program ranging from safe food handling, sanitation, knife cutting techniques and basic culinary principles. Goldy will have earned an Idaho food handlers certification and Managers ServSafe Certification.

“I hope to take my skills of learning how to cook to a local restaurant,” Goldy said. “High school wasn’t for me and I found a different passion – that was cooking.”

For the past 11 years, Life’s Kitchen has leased affordable kitchen, classroom, and administrative space at the City of Boise’s Housing and Community Development Facility on Capitol Boulevard. Last December, the organizations purchased a 35,000 square foot lot at the corner of Clay and 34th Street in Garden City that will be home to a 9,000 square foot facility.

Construction is planned for the spring of 2017, with occupancy in October 2017. The new space will provide job training to additional teens and more meals for community members in need.