August 11, 2018
School & Youth
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  • Cierra Greenleaf is a recent graduate of the Light House Shelter’s BEST program where she became ServSafe certified. She enjoys cooking with her 5-year-old daughter Rhiley.
    Photo Provided
    Cierra Greenleaf is a recent graduate of the Light House Shelter’s BEST program where she became ServSafe certified. She enjoys cooking with her 5-year-old daughter Rhiley.
  • Cierra Greenleaf is a recent graduate of the Light House Shelter’s BEST program where she became ServSafe certified. She enjoys cooking with her 5-year-old daughter Rhiley.
    Photo Provided
    Cierra Greenleaf is a recent graduate of the Light House Shelter’s BEST program where she became ServSafe certified. She enjoys cooking with her 5-year-old daughter Rhiley.
  • The Light House Shelter recently celebrated this year’s BEST graduates at a graduation ceremony. Cierra Greenleaf, a Pasadena resident, is pictured second from the right in the front row.
    Photo courtesy of The Light House Shelter
    The Light House Shelter recently celebrated this year’s BEST graduates at a graduation ceremony. Cierra Greenleaf, a Pasadena resident, is pictured second from the right in the front row.

Pasadena Resident Cooks Up Success

Maya Pottiger
Maya Pottiger's picture
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June 12, 2018

Since she was little, Cierra Greenleaf has always been happiest in a kitchen.

Growing up, she used to cook with her grandmother. Now, she is a ServSafe nationally certified chef.

“It’s my happy place. I feel free when I’m in the kitchen,” Greenleaf said. “I can be myself in the kitchen.”

Greenleaf recently graduated from the Building Employment Success Training (BEST) Program, which is run by the Light House Shelter in Annapolis. She also earned the Star Student Award for Excellent Communication Skills.

The program is 16 weeks long, and participants can choose the culinary arts track or facilities maintenance and landscaping track. In addition, participants learn “soft skills,” including communication, money management, resume building and mock interviews.

For Greenleaf, the BEST program was in the right place and came at the right time.

“It made me wake up,” Greenleaf said.

She first heard about the program when her cousin enrolled. Greenleaf looked into the culinary program but wasn’t sure if she wanted to commit to it.

“Yes, I wasn’t sure about it,” Greenleaf said, “but if it wasn’t for my biggest support system, my girlfriend [Nakita], I wouldn’t have went through with the program.”

During the program, Greenleaf and her classmates interned at the Light House Bistro. This gave them restaurant experience, which was a crucial opportunity. Greenleaf also earned a job at the Light House Bistro, so she worked there during her time in the BEST program.

Of all the things she learned, Greenleaf said knife skills were the most important. After all her years of cooking, Greenleaf learned she’d been holding the knife wrong the whole time.

Greenleaf’s instructors described her as a team player who is laid back with a subtle sense or humor. And, according to her classmates, Greenleaf is someone who has a passion for cooking and wants to succeed no matter what she may face.

“We wish Cierra much success as she moves toward her goals of building a new life for herself and her daughter,” said Linda Vogler, Greenleaf’s instructor who is the Light House executive chef and director of culinary arts training.

Now, Greenleaf works at the Embassy Suites Hotel in Linthicum as a line cook. She works the morning shift, making breakfast and prepping for lunches and events.

“It’s different than a restaurant,” Greenleaf said. “In a restaurant, you’re constantly busy. In the hotel, it’s not as busy. You get orders if people order.”

When she’s not cooking at the hotel, Greenleaf is cooking with her 5-year-old daughter, Rhiley.

Greenleaf’s ultimate goal is to become an executive chef and create her own menu.

“The program was my push forward to keep going,” Greenleaf said. “Now that I’m done the program, I’m not done. I want to keep going and do whatever it takes to become a chef.”


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