Orlando Youth Honored At White House-The Orlando Times
BY JALESSA CASTILLO, TIMES STAFF WRITER
ORLANDO - Six months after completing Second Harvest’s Culinary Training Program, local teenager Johnny Brummit received an invitation of a lifetime.
The youngest of four children, Johnny grew up in a subsidized housing project in Orlando. His parents weren’t around much and bad choices lead him to several visits to juvenile detention.
As he matured, he cleaned up his act and graduated from Jones High School. He didn’t find pride in his jobs working in fast food so he was inspired to further his education and pursue a career he enjoyed. After spending time cooking with his grandmother he thought he could make a career out of it.
“Without a support system, I felt like no one wanted me to succeed until I found Second Harvest,” explained Brummit.
In late 2018 he became a student in Second Harvest Food Bank’s Culinary Training Program. Johnny spent 16 weeks learning a variety of cooking techniques, safe food handling skills and how to prepare cuisine from around the world. He also found the support and encouragement he needed from chef instructors and staff.
The program has been running for over 5 years and is provided at no charge. Students attend classes Monday through Friday, from 8:30 a.m. to 2 p.m.
“Our program is for economically disadvantaged youth and adults,” said Idalia Nunez of Second Harvest Food Bank. “We put them through culinary training program where they get a lot of hands-on learning. We have a production kitchen and we also run a catering company so they get a lot of real-life experience.”
Second Harvest has a licensed program by the Florida Department of Education so graduates receive a diploma. The program is designed to complement the two- and four-year formal culinary programs in the area, should students wish to continue with their culinary education.
Around the same time Brummit started classes, the American Hotel and Lodging Association launched their “Empowering Youth Program” as an opportunity for their foundation (AHLEF) to give grant funding to cities that have a high demand for the hospitality industry, Orlando was the number one choice. Second Harvest came highly recommended and their partnership began with a $25,000 grant.
"They get all the foundational classes they would get in any regular college and then after that the goal is to help our students find jobs that can lead to stability in their life…with a life skills component to their classes,” added Nunez. “We do the training but because of the partnership, we have seen a lot doors of opportunity in the hotel industry open of our students.”
Since graduating Brummit has found employment at Aloft Downtown Orlando, within his first six months he has been promoted twice and now works as the Lead Breakfast Cook.
“We are so proud of Johnny,” said Nunez. “He came into the program and he was a little shy and he became like a lion in the kitchen.”
On July 25, he travelled with his grandmother to Washington, DC to speak at the White House as part of the one-year celebration event in honor of the Pledge to America’s Workers. An initiative that the President announced last summer with the goal of helping people get into jobs and accelerate their careers. The AHLEF pledged to help 130,000 workers over the next 5 years earn an industry certification, through their youth or other scholarship programs.
“I had the opportunity to speak to the class that Johnny was a part of,” said Shelly Weir of AHLEF. “When we got request from the White House to nominate someone from the hotel industry that really exemplified what these types of workforce development programs were all about, Johnny immediately came to mind.”
At the White House, Brummit shared the stage with President Trump, Vice President Pence and Ivanka Trump, who is overseeing the Pledge.
“I can’t explain the feeling, it was unreal. When I got to speak to Ivanka one-on-one that made me feel even more comfortable. Not too many people get that experience and I really enjoyed myself there, I felt like a King” said Brummit. “I would like to thank the American Hotel & Lodging Association and Second Harvest because this is a huge milestone for me. Especially Ms. Idalia, because she kept pushing me every day.”
He shared with a national audience about his childhood, how his grandmother raised him, and how he found his way to Second Harvest's Culinary Training Program.
“I don’t think there are many 19 year olds that could have stood next to the president and the vice president, and Ivanka and spoken with such poise in front of about 50 media cameras inside the White House,” said Weir. “Johnny really exemplifies everything that the hotel industry represents. He has a heart of service, he is an incredibly hard worker, and he has made a plan for his life. We are so incredibly proud of him and frankly I am quite certain we are all going to be working for Johnny someday.”
Johnny and his grandmother visited with several local elected officials, including Rep. Stephanie Murphy and Rep. Val Demings. They also celebrated his grandmother’s birthday.
“I’ve been living with my grandmother since I was 7. So to actually do that for her, I was so honored,” said Brummit. “That was a moment I was able to share with her, even afterward she said she felt like a Queen.”
Now back in Orlando, Brummit ready to get back to work.
“My current goal is keep pushing,” he said. “Now that I have the knowledge that the Hotel Association has an apprenticeship program I’m looking forward to going through that and furthering my career and trying to get a business started with catering.”
Since starting at Aloft, he has added several items to the breakfast menu. But his favorite is the southern breakfast, a plate of cheese grits, crispy chicken bites and a poached egg.
“There is nothing that you can’t do in life,” he said. “Just have faith and keep going, no one said life was going to be easy.”
To learn more about or apply for the program, visit www.feedhopenow.org/culinarytraining