Opportunity Kitchen celebrates 13th graduating class on February 1  

Columbia Industries, a mission-based organization committed to empowering individuals with disabilities and other challenges, is thrilled to announce the upcoming graduation ceremony for the 13th class of its flagship vocational training program, Opportunity Kitchen. The ceremony will take place on Thursday, February 1, 2024, at 4:00 PM, hosted downstairs at the Richland Federal Building. The event is open to the media, providing an opportunity to witness firsthand the transformative impact of this program in our community. 

Opportunity Kitchen is a testament to Columbia Industries’ unwavering commitment to supporting individuals in overcoming barriers to employment and achieving personal growth. The program has played a pivotal role in uplifting lives and fostering a sense of empowerment among its participants. 

Since its inception, Opportunity Kitchen has provided a structured path out of underemployment for over 50 individuals facing various challenges, including disabilities, mental illness, domestic violence, substance abuse, and homelessness. The program offers a comprehensive curriculum covering essential skills for employment in various sectors, including food service, hospitality, and catering. 

“Our students are inspiring and witnessing the life changing power of our Opportunity Kitchen program is rewarding for our entire team,” stated Michael Novakovich, President and CEO of Columbia Industries. “Food is transformative in so many ways. Couple food with a vocational training program that empowers often marginalized individuals, and you have a recipe for life success.” 

Opportunity Kitchen goes beyond traditional training programs by not only teaching vocational skills but also addressing broader life challenges. Graduates receive hands-on instruction in a commercial kitchen, gaining practical experience in food handling, cooking techniques, catering, and customer service. Additionally, they participate in life skills classes designed to enhance self-worth and overcome obstacles. 

Upon completion of the program, graduates receive help finding suitable employment through Columbia Industries’ dedicated Employment Services staff. The support extends to Empowerment Place, CI’s on-site resource center offering critical support services, ensuring graduates are well-equipped to enter the workforce and thrive in both their personal and professional lives. 

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