Willie, pictured with his brother at the festive graduation!

A proud grandfather and proud man, though Willie W. found himself without a home, he took every opportunity that came his way and enrolled in the Workforce Development Program at Camillus House because he wanted to grow.

“I wanted to learn culinary skills and Camillus House’s program with the Miami Dade College Culinary Institute made that happen,” said Willie. Willie is from Mississippi and due to an accident, became an amputee and lost everything “but Camillus House helped me get back on my feet.”

The journey began when he began living at Camillus House and the staff there gave him “some great advice. My time at Camillus House has been an adventure and a journey where I’ve found so many treasures.”

Being an amputee made his road at Camillus House difficult at first but thanks to the Workforce Development Program, the classes’ Head Chef and Coach Frank, his life turned around. “They took me into the class anyway and Chef Frank hung in there with us. I learned so many great recipes, it was really great, and the class was fun,” said Willie. “They taught us knife skills and I kept going back mainly because of the encouragement of the people at Camillus House and their great advice.”

The Workforce Development Program focuses on training individuals for high-demand skills in the hospitality as well as construction trade and security field. With their 70% job placement rate after graduation. And that was the case with Willie. “When I graduated from the Miami Culinary Institute (of MDC), I felt such a sense of accomplishment. I was proud of myself and also for being a product of Camillus House and all the hard work people there invested in me,” said Willie.

His brother even flew in from Milwaukee to attend the graduation. Willie says “my brother who ran for Senator of Wisconsin and was a college professor, took time out of his busy schedule to attend my graduation.”

It’s something his brother Darrell L. Williams, Ph.D. wasn’t going to miss.

“What an honor it was attending his graduation ceremony, I am so proud of my brother Willie. When I was young he was always there for me and now I am so glad to be there for him!,” said Dr. Williams. “I have become the person I am because of Willie and I will never forget that.”

Although Willie interviewed for a few restaurant jobs upon graduation, the hours required would have been too much for him to handle. Instead, he’s now happily employed part-time as a member of the yellow shirt team with the Downtown Development Authority.

“I like my job, it fits me well. They treat me well and it’s a stress-free job. I’m not worried about anything; I’m just out there doing my job,” he said.

And when he gets home from his work, he always looks forward to kitchen adventures with his grandkids. “I’m showing them how we cook in Mississippi but also what I learned in the kitchen at Camillus. Things like the cheesecake with a step-by-step recipe are what I can’t wait for them to try,” said Willie. “Those are the memories we’re making and what I’m sharing with my grandkids. That’s going to be our adventure.”

Willie’s brother is also incredibly thankful to Camillus House and Miami Dade College’s Culinary Institute “for their amazing community outreach and guiding their graduates on the road to success.”

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