Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) visited La Cocina VA yesterday, a nonprofit program that gives Hispanic immigrants bilingual, culinary job training in the basement of an Arlington church.
Below Mt. Olivet United Methodist Church (1500 N. Glebe Road) yesterday afternoon, Kaine — who speaks fluent Spanish after spending a year in Honduras before entering politics — met with the program’s leaders and participants, eager to learn more about the benefits it provides.
“This is an important program for a lot of reasons,” he said. His father was a welder and, when he was in Honduras, Kaine taught welding to the locals. “Teaching students in Honduras taught me a lot about technical education. People need skills you can’t get in the classroom.”
Kaine walked into the building and introduced himself to the program’s five current trainees and head chef, Diego Rojas, a U.S. Army veteran. He also met with graduates of the program, one of whom, Jose Hernandez, now works as a line cook at Le Meridien in Rosslyn.
Hernandez said when he came to Arlington and graduated high school, he was afraid to speak in English because he wasn’t as comfortable with the language as Spanish, and he was teased by classmates for his lack of proficiency.
“Now I’m more confident,” he said. “Now I’m training people in preparing salads and doing well in the kitchen.”
La Cocina not only trains its enrollees on how to work in a commercial kitchen, it also provides language skills to interact with coworkers and customers. It provides job placement services — Whole Foods has recently partnered to offer monthlong paid internships with the potential for a full-time position — and the environment Rojas and Founder/CEO Patricia Funegra cultivate generate leadership skills and confidence.
“This kitchen is like the garage Steve Jobs started in at his parents’ house,” Funegra said. “It’s one big step to get into the industry.”
While they are training, the cooks make thousands of meals provided to low-income families. La Cocina also focuses on health education, both for the trainees and the communities at large; 50 percent of every meal is made up of fruits and vegetables, Funegra said.
“This program is opening up doors I wouldn’t get anywhere else as a Hispanic woman,” one of the trainees said, according to a translator. “When we leave, we will be a voice for others.”
After a 45-minute discussion, Rojas and his trainees took Kaine to the kitchen, where they prepared meals of turkey cutlets, roasted squash and carrots made with turkey stock, plus sautéed onions, carrots and green beans.
A look at the smallest and largest homes sold in Arlington last month, August 2023.
For the last decade, Arlington Public Schools has tried to increase the time students with disabilities spend with their typically abled peers. Creating a more inclusive environment can benefit students…
Step into a world of flavor, creativity and philanthropy at the upcoming Halstead Food, Wine & Art Festival on Saturday, October 7 — where every moment is dedicated to giving…
Bronx Pizza is back in Clarendon under a new name: Big Tony’s Pizzeria & Dive Bar. Last May, the pizzeria closed its doors with little warning after doing business for…
At Generation Hope, we’re dedicated to supporting teen parents in college as they work toward earning their degrees. We are in need of caring child care volunteers for upcoming events on Saturday, October 21st (in Washington, DC), and Saturday, November 4th (in Arlington, VA). Join our growing volunteer community and support us at an event this fall!
At all of our events, we provide free onsite child care for the children of the teen parents we serve, creating a nurturing environment for the kiddos while their parents learn valuable life skills and build community.
If you enjoy working with children and are looking to make an immediate impact in your community, please visit https://www.generationhope.org/volunteer to learn more.
Join us for Arlington’s biggest civil rights & social justice event of the year. The banquet is back in person at the Arlington Campus of George Mason University.
Our keynote speaker this year is Symone Sanders from MSNBC and former Chief of Staff for Vice-President Kamala Harris.
The Master of Ceremonies is Joshua Cole, former state delegate, NAACP President, and local pastor.
Tickets/seating are limited. Purchase your ticket today! Sponsorship opportunities available.
Join the Rosslyn BID for Fall Fest on Saturday, Oct. 14, from 1-6 p.m. at Gateway Park! Whether you’re in the mood for a refreshment at our hard cider tastings and cash bar, want a bite to eat from the