I hardly ever watch Rachel Ray, but every time I do, I end up sobbing. Today’s show is about her remodeling of a culinary arts classroom at Frankford High, not far from where I live.
Wilma Stephenson, the culinary arts teacher, came to Ray’s attention through the documentary film “Pressure Cooker.” What’s noteworthy is that in a school where so many kids don’t even graduate, her kids not only graduate, they go on to cooking school and successful careers.
Meet two students who are able to rise above their hardships because of Ms. Stephenson’s support both inside and outside Room 325. Eighteen-year-old Diamond has already endured the death of her father when she was 5 and the incarceration of her mother. Now, she not only goes to school but also works to support the household, which consists of her mother, two sisters, and four children under the age of 7. Still, she maintains a 3.6 grade point average, and she gives a lot of that credit to her culinary arts teacher. “Ms. Stephenson is like a second mother to me,” says Diamond. If I need to talk to someone, she’s there… she makes me feel wanted.”
Likewise, 18-year-old Christian attributes his confidence to Ms. Stephenson. “All my life I’ve been told that I can’t,” he says. He stopped caring about school, started hanging out with the wrong crowd, was drinking, and even contemplated suicide — until his beloved teacher took him under his wing. “I think Ms. Stephenson is the one person who never gave up on me,” says Christian. “I love her.”
Not only did Ray’s foundation gave each of the graduating seniors a $5000 culinary arts scholarship, she brought in chef Bobby Flay to teach the students.
No matter how bad things are in the world, you can always find some good. And if you can’t find it, go make some yourself.