By: Clarisa Ramirez, buildOn Communications Intern
buildOn Program Coordinator Laura Reardon from Connecticut was inspired by the popular Bravo series Top Chef to create a culinary-based service project. Earlier this year, she organized Restaurant Wars: Community Meal Style. Eighty-nine students were divided into teams that had to compose a menu from food donations and serve the meal to five groups of people at soup kitchens and shelters. Laura’s co-worker Lara Levin said the event was the participating students’ favorite project of the year.
“She’s a really, really hard worker,” Lara said, describing Laura as being a team player who looks for ways to make their region’s programs better. “She puts in that extra step to get things done so everything’s perfect… so we have more meaningful projects that are really great for our students.”
We interviewed Laura about her experiences for this week’s They buildOn.
Years at buildOn: I just started with buildOn at the end of August, 2010.
What were you doing before you joined buildOn?
I was working up in Rochester New York as a refugee resettlement case manager.[pullquote]I’ve met students that are without a doubt changing and impacting their communities.[/pullquote]
How has buildOn changed your life?
In the nonprofit world, my job is to volunteer, but for the students, school is their job, and they inspire me to do service during my personal time. I volunteer at the library. I do ESL Conversation Partners weekly at the library. Lately it’s gotten down to one or two Mondays a month with refugees.
It’s restored a lot of my hope in community development and youth. I think that I’ve met students that are without a doubt changing and impacting their communities – and that’s continued to inspire me to do work here.
Tell us a little bit more about the Restaurant Wars project.[pullquote]The students had to be creative by thinking about what types of food they could use to make a healthy and nutritious and delicious meal.[/pullquote]
This was a project that I really wanted to come to fruition. The program’s participants have different challenges and one of the challenges is to create a restaurant and they’re judged by the quality of the meal. Our idea was to take it out to the community. The students were in six teams and they used the food they collected from a food drive to make a meal in one day. They had to be creative by thinking about what types of food they could use to make a healthy and nutritious and delicious meal. The recipients of the meal got to rate the students based on their creativity, their friendliness, their service, and their decorations. The winners received a meal book by the buildOn staff.
What’s another favorite memory you have working with buildOn?
We made over 1000 paper cranes to donate for Japan relief through Students Rebuild. They donate $2 per crane.
I really enjoy when we’re doing a project where the students are learning a new skill, whether it’s cooking or making cranes, because it’s something that they can use where they’re empowered by not only what they’re able to give, but also through the skill that they gain it.
Complete this sentence:
buildOn is… an avenue for youth to see and create change in their communities and their world.