Stephanie Ruiz named Goodwill’s Graduate of the Year

Stephanie Ruiz assists her classmates by helping them prepare the food for the culinary arts restaurant. Ruiz credits her parents as the reason why she decided to become a chef. Photo credit: Monique Nethington

Stephanie Ruiz assists her classmates by helping them prepare the food for the culinary arts restaurant. Ruiz credits her parents as the reason why she decided to become a chef. Photo credit: Monique Nethington

Monique Nethington, Campus Life Copy Editor

The Southern Los Angeles Goodwill Workforce Program has selected, culinary arts student, Stephanie Ruiz for its Graduate of the Year Award.

Goodwill takes eighty percent of retail sales to fund training for its workforce programs.

This program is used to help place individuals into jobs that help in becoming more self-sufficient.

Goodwill has partnered with the Cerritos College Culinary Arts department to help employ currently enrolled students.

Michelle Peters of Goodwill is the workforce coordinator for Cerritos College and teaches life skills classes on campus.

It is here that she was introduced to Ruiz.

Ruiz’ dream of becoming a chef was guided and influenced by her parents and their interest in other cultures.

“My parents used to try different things from different cultures,” Ruiz said, “[…] I love food, in general and I love learning different things from cultures.”

She first came to Cerritos to pursue a career in baking, in which she obtained a certificate in 2014.

However, she found it difficult to find work in her chosen field.

Facing challenges such as her speech, lack of job experience and some physical challenges, Ruiz decided to return to Cerritos to obtain a certificate in professional cooking.

Despite these challenges, Ruiz continued to attend these life skill classes and eventually was able to obtain not one, but two jobs.

The first job was obtained through Culinary Staffing Services. Soon afterward she obtained her second job for Vintage Cerritos as a kitchen assistant.

As proof of her great qualities as an employee, she has quickly moved up from dishwasher to being trained as a prep-cook.

Peters said,“She’s dedicated, loves a challenge and she will do whatever it takes to get it done.”

Her dedication, tenacity, and willingness to learn is what makes Ruiz go the extra mile.

Chef Michael Pierini said, “She has really good work ethic, Class has been over for almost an hour [and] she’s still here.”

Ruiz and 5 other students have been given the chance to work for the Tenaya Lodge, a five diamond resorts outside Yosemite.

“I’m really excited. I never would have imagined that it would happen this fast,” Ruiz said, “I thought it would be in one or two years.

“This is the perfect opportunity to get my start,” she finished.

With the help of the Goodwill Workforce Program she has learned to organize her time correctly and obtain knowledge of what future employers want from an employee.

“I’m excited for the program and what Goodwill has to offer.” she said.

Ruiz dreams of becoming a chef at some of the most reputable hotels and kitchens in the country.

Peters said, “She learned that with hard work, you can achieve anything that you want to in life.”