As the kitchen doors opened, the first thing that was apparent were the smiling faces of those who carried the silver trays into the Grand Ballroom at the Sunrise Civic Center.
It was no ordinary luncheon, but one showcasing the talents of students enrolled in ARC Broward’s Culinary Institute, one of three mission-based enterprises that also include ARC’s Learning Institute and Electronics Recycling Services. The nonprofit’s 22 programs help young adults with disabilities or other life challenges become the best they can be. For ARC Broward, it’s about maximizing opportunity and student success.
Standing tall at the Student-Chef Luncheon, both literally and figuratively, was 6-foot-8-inch student-chef Bobby Curran. The resident of Coral Springs and fellow student, Danielle Johnson, prepared the tasty three-course, Mexican-themed meal as Chef Instructor Mika Lyons supervised.
Five years ago Curran weighed more than 500 pounds. Today he tips the scale at 230 pounds, having lost more than 270 pounds. His goal is to drop another 70 pounds.
He said the first step to losing weight is acknowledging the problem. “You have to want to change,” he said. “You have to strive to better yourself, and you have to remain dedicated because the journey is not easy.”
A produce specialist at Whole Foods Market in Coral Springs, the company that provided the ingredients for the luncheon, Curran looks at his future. “Whole Foods is a great company with a lot of growth potential,” he said. “I have a passion to help others transform their lives. I eventually want to become a nutritionist, but right now I’m looking to advance my career at Whole Foods, with an eye on the position of healthy eating specialist.”
Curran understood that obesity is a gateway to a multitude of health issues, including hypertension, heart failure, osteoarthritis and even some cancers. “I found out about the program at ARC Broward through my roommate and decided I wasn’t going to be a victim,” he said. “I was going down the wrong path, and my weight was a huge health risk, so I decided to do something about it.”
A painful, herniated disk pushed him into a radical lifestyle decision. Through prescribed physical therapy, dietary changes, better nutrition and added activity, his weight began to drop. At first, the weight loss was fairly quick, but then it slowed.
“I didn’t hit the panic button, but stuck with the program, and now I’m back on track and continue to lose weight,” he said. “The key is proper portion control and to know how much you can have as a treat before it crosses the line to gluttony.”
The 16-week course in Introductory Culinary Arts at ARC Broward helps students gain proficiency and confidence, as they learn nutritional guidelines, safe food practices and meal planning. “The culinary program is about $4,500, but scholarships are available, and we offer very flexible payment plans,” said Derek Stein, director of ARC Broward’s Learning Institute. “We really work hard with students to make everything manageable.”
Culinary Director Gary Snow says that ARC Broward teaches real-life professional skills, while preparing students to enter the job force. “Our Center for Financial Stability has job coaches that help with resumes, hone interview skills and prepare our students for future success,” he said.
According to Dennis Haas, CEO of ARC Broward, the funding scale has tipped dramatically. “It used to be that we were funded 90 percent by the government,” he said. “We’re now at about 50 percent and undertaking a $5.45 million capital campaign. The future looks very bright.”
That’s true for both ARC Broward and Curran.
For information about ARC Broward, call 954-746-9400 or visit arcbroward.com.
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