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Group helps teens find jobs in Lexington

LEXINGTON, N.C. -- Romeo Parsons, 14, was once a novice in the kitchen, but he’s learned a lot since joining Kids at Work six weeks ago.

“How long it actually takes to cook food -- no I thought they just cooked it and it was done in five minutes but it’s a process, it takes a long time,” Romeo said.

The 16-week program meets once a week for three hours per day. It’s looking to expand to Davidson and Davie counties, but needs to raise money to provide transportation to do so.

“For an hour they’re getting interpersonal lessons and for the next two hours they’re with their chef instructor learning culinary arts skills and getting certified,” said Karen Hemphill, the district leader and a chef instructor.

Kids ages 12 to 17 years old get free hands-on lessons from chefs.

“Before I used to just sit at home and not do anything and rely on my mom to do everything. But now I actually go in the kitchen and cook food for myself,” Romeo said.

Romeo’s learning how to be safe in the kitchen and a gets a new recipe each week.

“You can take a steak and throw it on the grill and OK it taste alright but if you spice it correctly and set it up correctly it tastes even better,” Chef Ronnie Edwards said.

The program targets at-risk youth.

Mentors and instructors also teach them conflict resolution and coping skills.

“Whenever they are in a conflict at school or at home, they have coping skills and they’re able to handle that situation better,” interpersonal coach Stephanie Acosta said.

Romeo’s six weeks have helped him grow as a chef, but even more as a person.

“Before I was rude. I’m not even going to lie, they taught me how to use my manners. And Chef Karen, she taught me how to cook properly, and miss Stephanie she helped me whenever I got mad,” Romeo said.

Romeo and kids like him rely on transportation to participate.

“My mom has to go to work,” Romeo said.

Without money for the van, the program can’t function.

“No I don’t think we can. Because again, parents work,” Acosta said.

Again, to get that van this organization needs about $7,000. You can make a donation at

Or you can make a pledge over the phone by calling (828) 226-5533.

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