Youth Transitions, Inc

Youth Transitions, Inc

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Cokesbury Center

9919 Kingston Pike

Knoxville, Tennessee 37922


Summer Intern begins new Job

Tuesday, July 29th, 2014 | Uncategorized | No Comments

Chad completes his summer internship.

He began his new job with Morrison’s Healthcare Food service.

2012 Prostart Tennessee Culinary Competition

Tuesday, July 29th, 2014 | Uncategorized | No Comments

Reiko manages knife skills during competition.

Judges observe his skill level.

2011 Prostart National Competition, Kansas City Kansas

Tuesday, July 29th, 2014 | Uncategorized | No Comments

Prostart 2011 Champions

Tuesday, July 29th, 2014 | Uncategorized | No Comments

2011 Atlanta, Georgia

Prostart Management Culinary Competition

First Place Team

Our Culinary Arts Team Wins 1st at HEFG!

Wednesday, April 14th, 2010 | Uncategorized | No Comments

The Youth Transitions Culinary Arts team won First Place in the Tennesee Division of the Hospitality Education Foundation of Georgia (HEFG), Prostart Competition on March 26, 2010. The team of three deaf students competed and learned with 18 other teams from Tennessee and Georgia. Being the only deaf team had several challenges, yet the team was prepared and learned much from the experience. Recipe For Success

Thursday, November 1st, 2007 | Uncategorized | No Comments

Program helps students with special needs hone employable culinary skills

High school sophomore Frederick Johnson carefully sliced the zucchini, placing each plank on a pan ready for grilling.

“It’s fun. I like creating things,” Johnson said in sign language, admitting the grill is his favorite way to cook.

Johnson is one of five students from the Tennessee School for the Deaf who have been honing their culinary skills in hopes of landing a job in food service.

The training program, which started in August, is part of Youth Transitions, a nonprofit organization aimed at helping restaurants find qualified workers while getting disabled high school students employed.

“There’s a demand for employees. This is an untapped pool. They’re just not trained. So we know if we can train them at a high level, they can go to work,” said Chris Harper, Youth Transitions president and founder.

Students spend an hour and a half each day cooking in the kitchen at Calvary Baptist Church, 3200 Kingston Pike. And every Wednesday, the students prepare meals for about 300 churchgoers at Calvary and Bearden United Methodist.

On this day, the table has been set for a dinner of chicken marsala with grilled zucchini planks, Caesar salad, crostini and Italian cream cake.

The students prepared the entire meal, except for the cake, from scratch that morning.

Harper, who said he tries to stress the students out “to emulate what it is really like at a restaurant,” said the program, which is in its first year, has exceeded his expectations. The biggest challenge is pushing the clock to get it all done.

“Like right now, I’m the time keeper so I think in nine minutes we need to be ready. We won’t be ready. It’s just constantly thinking ahead, trying to stay ahead,” he said.

In the food service industry for 20 years including stints as a manager for Red Lobster and the Lunch Box, Harper said he was constantly trying to find good, trained employees.

Meanwhile, he said there are 70 percent of disabled Americans who can’t find a job while only 1 percent of students with a disability are employed.

“That’s a lot of folks not working,” he said. “If we can teach them three job functions then we know when we put them in a job they will be productive for that employer.”

Harper will also go into a restaurant, look at their operations and replicate it back at the church. That allows the students to become familiar with the restaurant or other food service provider.

Too often, he said, employers will say they would like to hire this person but they don’t have time to train them.

“I took that one statement and I built a program,” said Harper, who modeled Youth Transitions after a thesis he wrote in graduate school.

The organization gets some private local funding and some revenue from one of the churches it feeds.

This summer Harper will be launching a summer intern program that will provide children with summer employment. Harper already has two jobs lined up in Memphis. And in the fall, he plans to expand his program to at least three classes.

“We know we can do it with any population of kids with special needs,” he said. “They could have autism. They could have Down’s syndrome. It doesn’t matter. We understand how to do it. We’ve built a model that works.”

But employment is key “because that’s what we do.”

“We can say, ‘Yeah, they can really cook great. They do nice stuff.’ If we don’t get them employed, we’re just talking.”

(By Carly Harrington,

Youth Transitions, Inc

Messiah Lutheran Church

6900 Kingston Pike

Knoxville, TN 37919


865.660.6680 Local

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