Central Piedmont Community College partners with The Arts Empowerment Project to help troubled youth.

Central Piedmont Community College (CPCC) is partnering with The Arts Empowerment Project (TAEP) to help local teens who are at risk or have been impacted by violence use culinary art as a source of self-expression, healing and empowerment. To accomplish this goal, 12 youths, ages 12 – 17, have been participating in CPCC’s Culinary Boot Camp, learning basic cooking and life skills that will help them when they one day live on their own.

The group of teens has been meeting since July 14 in the Philip L. Van Every Culinary Arts Center, located on Central Campus, twice a week, from 2 – 6:30 p.m. During class, the youngsters learn how to use kitchen utensils; prepare soups, sandwiches, entrées and desserts; stock a pantry; and shop on a budget. The lessons learned during class are designed to help each student be successful when they prepare to one day rent their first apartment or become independent. The students will commemorate their final class on Aug. 9 by serving several of their culinary creations to their foster family and/or social worker.

“Our hands-on cooking camp gives students an opportunity to learn how easy and affordable it is to prepare healthy, delicious food,” said Amy Bowen, Corporate and Continuing Education Program Developer, for CPCC. “We find the students are enthusiastic, eager to learn and proud of their healthy creations. As a result, they are not only able to build their self-esteem, but also learn important life lessons that will enable them to succeed in life.”

The CPCC/TAEP partnership is one of 14 pilot programs across the region. The organization created the program based on studies that show that participation in the arts contributes to academic achievement, improved social behaviors, self-esteem, academic performance, increased community and civic engagement, and helps divert youth from gangs, drugs and the juvenile justice system.

To help launch the program, TAEP collaborated with the North Carolina District Court as a member of Mecklenburg County’s 26th Judicial District Court’s Arts & Science Collaborative Initiative. To find participants, TAEP screened, placed and funded the participation of court-involved youth in existing Arts & Science Council programs and partnering programs.

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