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All-American Success Stories in Workforce Education

 Culinary Skills Reign Supreme

Daniel Cosme
Second Place Winner (Tie), Career & Technical Education,
Region 2

Daniel Cosme, who emanates positive vibrations, boundless energy, and irresistible sociability, has overcome the tragedy of losing his right hand and lower arm in an accident. "Today I'm a cook with a hook at Ruleme Center in Eustis and known for my sense of humor," said Daniel, a 2001 graduate from Lake Technical Center's (LTC) Commercial Foods and Culinary Arts program and a certified cook. In 1986, while working at a textile mill in Conneticut, his right arm was pulled inside a machine and it had to be amputated below his elbow. "I had to learn to eat, tie my shoes, and everything else with my left hand – including cooking. It took over 12 years to receive my prosthetic right arm."

Daniel moved to Florida to pursue his culinary arts dream. "The best thing I have ever done for myself was to attend LTC with the assistance of Vocational Rehab. Cooking came so easily. It was my calling," he said. He was a Skills USA-VICA Region III Gold Medalist in 2000 and 2001. He graduated at the top of his class and was named LTC 2001 Student of the Year. Daniel worked as a cook for a retirement center under LTC's co-op program and after graduation was hired as lead cook.

He volunteers whenever needed for a variety of projects from building a cardboard model of the future sanctuary to maintaining of the building and grounds of his church. He also contributes gourmet meals for the church's monthly dinners. As a cook for Ruleme Center, Daniel makes a difference in the lives of 170 elderly residents and the staff. His positive attitude and dedication to preparing delicious meals makes Daniel extremely popular. He is also an inspiration and role model for others planning to pursue a career in culinary arts.

Daniel shows his support of the Center by saying, "Everywhere I go, I tell about the outstanding training available at LTC. I'm always bragging about the skills taught to me at Lake Technical Center."

 "Real" Chef Started as a Little Girl

Jackie Hernandez
Second Place Winner (Tie), Career & Technical Education,
Region 2

Jackie Hernandez's dream of becoming a "real" chef started as a little girl watching her mother cook. However, the reality of those dreams seemed very distant as Jackie grew up and became a single parent. She recognized that as the primary provider and the key role model for her two daughters, she needed to earn more than an average wage. She needed to return to school. Jackie enrolled in the Technical Education Center Osceola (TECO) Culinary Arts Program in August 2001.

While enrolled at TECO, Jackie was involved in Skills USA. She won a silver medal at the district level and a gold at the state level, enabling her to represent Florida at the national competition in Kansas City. She won ninth place out of 34 competitors and scored high enough on the written test at the competition to earn a Culinary Journey Baker certificate. She was also chosen as the Osceola County Adult and Technical Educators (OCATE) Student of the Year in 2002. Jackie graduated from TECO in May 2002, and is now enrolled in TECO's evening apprenticeship program pursuing her pastry chef certification. Jackie opened a catering business and, because of her exceptional skills, TECO's instructors recommend her for special occasion cakes. Jackie is also employed at the Council on Aging until her business can support itself.

Jackie has always focused on helping others and finds time to get involved within her community. She is a member of a task force that focuses on ways to obtain health services for senior citizens and is a board member for the Health Services Program. When asked what advice she would have for another person wanting to start the program, she replied, "Tell them to go for it! It has given me what was missing in my life and has inspired me and given me the self confidence to do whatever I need to do to be successful."

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