2014 Scholarship Recipients

A lovely champagne reception was held September 2 at Kendall College to introduce our membership to the recipients of the 2014 Scholarship Awards. We were very proud to be able to offer $30,000 in scholarships this year due to our successful Swank-a- licious fund raiser this past spring. Eight ladies from seven different schools were chosen and happily, all were present. We had a nice turnout of about 40 and it was an enjoyable opportunity to mingle with our recipients and each other. A big thank you to Barbara Glunz for the delicious wine, Sofia Solomon for her stellar cheese selection, Julie Chernoff for the antipasto platter, Anne Kaufmann and the French Pastry School for their sweet treats, Patty Erd for organizing and Kendall College for hosting. The Scholarship committee was made up of Patty Erd, Polly Peters, Melissa Yen, Sofia Solomon, Dana Benigno, and Portia Bellow-Lowndes, we thank them for their contribution.

If anyone has a desire to be on this very rewarding committee for the 2015 scholarships, please contact Patty Erd at spices@thespicehouse.com. Thank you also to our scholarship recipients for having the courage to take the microphone and tell us a little bit about themselves. In addition to the scholarships we are providing, it is also our goal to provide each woman with a mentor. If you have any interest in taking up one of these important mentorship roles, please contact the Mentor Chair, Melissa Yen, whose email is melissa@josnowsyrups.com. For those of you not in attendance, below is more information about each of these talented ladies who are sure to go far. Congratulations to each of them.

Back row, Graciela Guzman, Kristin Gleeson, Miranda Kidd. Anna Piech, Stephanie Klafert, Caitlin Waite. Front Row, Regina Torres, Katherine Storm
Back row, Graciela Guzman, Kristin Gleeson, Miranda Kidd. Anna Piech, Stephanie Klafert, Caitlin Waite. Front Row, Regina Torres, Katherine Storm

Kristin Gleeson is enrolled in the Patisserie and Baking program at Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts.

She hopes to one day become the executive chef/owner of her own bakery. She grew up as a first generation American with her father growing up on a farm in Ireland and her mother being raised in Southern Mexico. She clearly has baking in her heritage as this is what she writes about her family. “My mother was a fascinating cake decorator for over 30 years, which allowed me to view art in a much different light than I was accustomed to. My father, being a proficient baker, established himself in the industry, which allowed him to flourish, and become the provider he envisioned being. There was an immediate connection between me, and this art form/profession. For me, this art is not only a passion, but a way of life that makes myself, and others happy”. Kristin has been awarded a $2,500 scholarship.

Graciela Guzman is also enrolled at Le Cordon Blue College of Culinary Arts. After she graduates in December, she is very excited to be going to Disneyworld for a four month internship. After that she plans to continue her education and earn her bachelor’s degree. We loved the story that her inspiration came from her daughter. She wrote “My daughter has always been a great inspiration and has always influenced me to take positive actions in my life. But, in the fall of 2012, after 14 years of continually working I was unemployed. I felt very scared, lost and sad because I was not sure what I was going to do…. My daughter said to me “Mom, stop being so scared, get out of your comfort zone, and enroll in school and do what you really want to do”. Those wise words my 16 year old told me, influenced my decision to enroll at Le Cordon Bleu and begin a new chapter in my life. Who would have known that the little girl that I gave life to was on day going to help me find mine”? Graciela told us that she had never felt so alive in her life as she does today, and it shows. Graciela has been awarded a $2,500 scholarship.

Miranda Kidd is attending Kendall College. She would ultimately enjoy working in the Chicago area as an event coordinator in a hotel or restaurant. She currently serves as the President of Club for Hospitality Advancing Management Professionals which is a student organization at Kendall. Miranda believes that “Growing up in a small farming community definitely has advantages and has instilled in me a hard working ethic. This creates an appreciation for framing and what goes into the production of growing of produce and livestock”. Miranda also believes that her strongest attribute is her leadership skills, and this has always come naturally to her. She completed management toolbox training in her last job, which helped her by discussing personality types, communication skills and project management, qualities essential for the making of a great leader. Miranda has been awarded a $5,000 scholarship.

Stephanie Klafert is enrolled in the hospitality management program at The Illinois Institute of Art. This is exciting for us, as it is not one of the schools that typically have candidates applying for our scholarships. Ultimately, we would like to develop relationships with as many culinary schools in our area as possible. Stephanie would like to see herself as a Food and Beverage Director at McCormick Place or a Chicago hotel ten years down the road. She currently works at McCormick place where she helped Windy City Harvest plant their rooftop garden. She creates recipes and menus that sell the farm to plate concept at their new 23rd Street Café outlet. She plans to continue to grow with her company’s sustainability program by helping them pursue a green seal certification. She recently was already given a promotion. We loved that she said “my long term goal is to not only raise money and awareness of the programs I hold dear to my heart, but become more of a front line champion to the charities I support”. To that end, she has volunteered time to help plan events and procure local catering for the Veterans Creative Arts Therapy Program and for TAPS: Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors. Stephanie has been awarded a $5,000 scholarship.

Anna Piech is enrolled in the associates program at Robert Morris University – Institute of Culinary Arts. She hopes to eventually open her own restaurant and catering company. Anna told us that her biggest influence was her mother. “As a young child my mother always let he help her cook in the kitchen. She always believed in me and helped me create dishes on my own. Being able to be creative, have traditions and knowing she would be proud of my efforts to pursue my dreams is just a few of the reasons she is my biggest influences”. Sadly her mother died after an 8 year struggle with a rare form of cancer, her death being Anna’s most influential moment in life. “I learned to embrace every moment in life because I wouldn’t have imagined my mother would be taken from me so sudden. She missed my growing up and becoming a lady, my high school prom, graduation, and most importantly my acceptance into culinary school. For these reasons, my view on the world and the time I spend in it is so much more precious to me”. Anna’s Dad attended the reception and it was very clear how proud he was of Anna, as well he should be. Anna has been awarded a $5,000 scholarship.

Katherine Storm is enrolled in L’Art de la Patisserie program at The French Pastry School. Her lofty goal is to work toward owning her owning her own bakery or café that hires underprivileged workers. Prior to deciding on a career in pastry arts she was considering a career in social work, and had even begun to apply to a master’s program in that field. “I ultimately decided that I wanted to serve my surrounding community in a less-traditional and more “hands on” capacity, but never lost the heart for serving underprivileged members of society in some way. I am hoping to open my bakery or café in an effort to enhance the special fabric of my local community, providing a sort of “sanctuary” where people can strengthen relationship with each other, while enjoying high quality food products. However, I’d like take an additional step in my efforts to build community. I would like to offer employment to (when feasible) to those struggling to find jobs (i.e. immigrants, the homeless, people with prison records, etc.). I’d hope to use profits from the café to provide additional assistance to my employees – perhaps offering them further education to improve job skills, or therapy or counseling sessions when needed”. Katherine has been awarded a $5,000 scholarship.

Regina Torres was attending Lexington College, which when it was unexpectedly closed, came as an unhappy surprise to its students. “This past May I received the unexpected news that my school had closed its doors. Upon hearing the news I had two options: wallow in self-pity, or make a plan of action and follow it. I chose the latter and am stronger for it. Looking back, Lexington’s closure was a defining point in my life, and I am glad I had the opportunity to face it. Fortunately, my unusual background had prepared me for just such an unpredictable situation. Growing up in Spain in a decidedly American family meant that I always had one foot in each culture. It gave me a very flexible attitude towards my surroundings, an attitude which served me especially well last May. My background reduced my fear of the unknown, and prepared me to greet my new reality with a spirit of adventure rather than of dread”. Regina plans to get her master’s degree in Hospitality Management. Her $2,500 scholarship will now help towards her education at her new school, Kendall College.

Caitlyn Waite is enrolled with the Baking and Pastry Arts program at the College of DuPage. She hopes to complete a bachelor’s degree in business and then to own an Italian family-owned bakery that offers a full catering service to families among the community. Caitlyn began baking at a young age, by decorating ice cream cakes at her uncle’s establishment when she was just 14. While learning basic buttercream, piping and fondant skills, she realized already that she had found her passion. Throughout high school, she enrolled in all the culinary classes available, which qualified her to participate in a skills USA competition during her junior year where she was to represent her high school at the competition in Springfield. She placed seventh and the following year as a senior, she competed again, this time taking fifth place in the state of Illinois. We are sure Caitlyn has many more awards ahead of her. Caitlyn currently works in a Naperville bakery called Sugar Monkey Cupcakes. She feels this life experience will help her gain the skills that will help her open her own bakery one day. Caitlyn has been awarded a $2,500 scholarship.

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