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Culinary Arts Program Brings More to the Table Than Cooking Classes for At-Risk Youth at Devereux Advanced Behavioral Health Arizona
By Tobin Ernst - Thursday Jul 15, 2021
Aside from the appetizers, antipasto salad, entrée and dessert being served, at-risk youth from Devereux Advanced Behavioral Health Arizona were bringing a super-sized helping of personal development and job readiness to the table during a recent luncheon at Devereux’s Residential Treatment Center in Scottsdale, Arizona.

The luncheon capped an eight-week Culinary Arts program, where kids obtain their Arizona Food Handler’s certificate, coinciding as part of July’s Culinary Arts Month observation.

“This specialized program for at-risk youth is an opportunity generator,” said Frank Castillo, director of residential services at Devereux Arizona. “The skills these youth learn and having them come out of the program with their food handler’s card, we are assisting in the preparation for employment.”

This year, two classes of youth graduated from the program, which culminated with a luncheon to showcase their culinary skills. From menu planning, food prep, table setting to serving, youth in Devereux’s culinary program get a taste of real-world dining while sharing each other’s unique talents. The most recent luncheon took place on July 8 with 30 guests in attendance and four youth completing the program. A future luncheon has not been scheduled yet.

Devereux Arizona’s Culinary Arts Program is a cohort of youth living on a 10-acre campus at its Residential Treatment Center, providing at-risk youth with meaningful learning experiences. Luncheon themes and menu items vary per program.

“Along with the new cooking skills learned during the program, these children can build self-confidence, learn about teamwork, safety, public speaking and exposure to different cultures and cuisines,” added Castillo.

Devereux’s Residential Treatment Center (RTC) is a 52-bed center where youth between the ages of 5-17 live and attend school while receiving treatment for emotional, mental, behavioral and/or substance abuse challenges. The RTC, a Level 1 therapeutic facility, is Arizona’s only facility providing youth with specialized programming in a safe environment in which to heal.

Devereux Arizona began a therapeutic day school in 1967. The RTC was established in 1978 as a 32-bed center before expanding to 52 beds with the new Marley Dormitory in July 2019.