Thursday, January 31, 2019

You’ve been selected. 
You’ve been accepted. 
You are invited.

You're selected, accepted, invited. Those simple words can change the course of a student’s life. Whether it’s being selected for an internship, accepted to a college, or being invited to participate in an elite study program, a door has opened and anything can happen next.

The door that opened for Reynolds Computer Science student Emily Krause was an invitation to participate in NASA’s National Community College Aerospace Scholars (NCCAS) program.

First, a little bit about Emily Krause. Emily is an artist and engineer rolled in to one. She is a self-confessed “goody two-shoes” who swam, played oboe in the band, and clarinet in the marching band during high school. She continued her education at Ohio University where she got a degree in Visual Communication. During her breaks at Ohio she attended Northern Virginia Community College. She loved computers, and realized a degree in computer science would be better fit.

Emily moved to Richmond and works two jobs now, but still didn’t earn enough money to go back to school. Financial Aid made it possible for her to continue her education at Reynolds. She says, “I’m just glad I had options. I couldn’t have afforded to do this without help.”

With the encouragement of Professor of Information Systems Technology Catherine Thomas, Emily applied to the NASA community college program. This program is open to community college students, like Emily, pursuing careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). To be eligible to apply they must be enrolled in, or have completed more than nine hours of STEM coursework. They must be recommended by a professor, and must submit a 300-word essay. But, that’s just the start.

Doors like the NASA program don’t open without work and dedication. Once selected as a potential candidate for the program, the next step is to participate in an “online experience.” This five-week, web-based program requires about 20 hours of work, including interaction with other students around the country, webinars with NASA engineers and scientists, and completion of a unique project. If a student is successful in this online “interview”, then they MAY, like Emily, be invited to attend the “onsite experience” held at a NASA facility. Being invited to go “onsite” is a great honor, and is a once in a lifetime experience. Students post videos and pictures of themselves holding signs reading: I’M GOING TO NASA. They expect the experience to be amazing, and they are not disappointed.

Emily will spend four days at the NASA Langley site in Norfolk where she will work on a team project mentored by NASA engineers, attend their briefings, tour the facilities, and compete in a rover building competition. During the four days students will be strongly encouraged to complete their two-year degrees and to transfer to a four-year university to continue their studies and pursue a NASA-related career.

The program will give Emily the chance to build relationships with other students and the NASA mentors. She will see what it’s like to work not just as a scientist, but as a scientist at NASA. NASA pays for Emily’s travel, hotels, meals, and any other fees. Past participants say the program is exciting, challenging, that the scientists and engineers are passionate and love sharing their knowledge, and that the hands-on experience is exceptional. They also say the food is great, so Emily should eat well!

Congratulations, Emily! Well done. We look forward to hearing about your four days at NASA.

Interested in applying for this program? Applications for the Fall 2019 program open February 20 and close May 15, 2019. Visit for more information.

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Meet Reynolds Culinary Arts Student

Emmanuel Finnell

What motivated you to study culinary arts?
I have always been impressed with culinary art, baking specifically.

Where are you in your culinary studies?
Right now in my culinary studies I’m near the end in 2019.

What are you working on now? 
Right now I am perfecting my craft in baking.

What is your favorite task as a culinary student?
My favorite task is learning the inside of the business.

What is your favorite ingredient? 
My favorite ingredients for everything is vanilla. 

Do you have a “signature dish”?
My signature dish is lemon bars and ginger snaps because I served those to the governor. He said, and I quote, "They were better than the ones at the Governor's mansion."

What would you most like to do in culinary arts when you graduate? 
After I graduate I’ll plan on opening up my own bakery.

What is your favorite restaurant in Richmond?
Lady n'awlins.

What would you tell other potential students interested in studying culinary arts at Reynolds?
I would tell them to never give up, even though it is hard, and to follow their dreams and goals.

A Story of the Present and Future

Left to right: daughter Trinity, Natasha, husband Shawn
The story of Natasha Deleon House is not a story of the past. It’s a story of the present and future. Natasha has a past, a pretty rough one, but she is quietly tenacious, and talks about it matter-of-factly, almost as if dealing with a flat tire. She has roots now, a family, a home, a career, and a great life. Her past is her past. And, she readily credits Middle College, Ms. Jackie Epps and Ms. Mary Jo Washko, with being the fork in her road that branched her from that past to her future. Here's what happened.

First, a little about Middle College. Middle College is a Virginia Community College System (VCCS) initiative that is grant funded. It helps 18 to 24 year olds earn their GED and provides industry training for workforce credentials.  Remedial and workforce readiness courses, assistance with community college enrollment, community employment, and comprehensive support services are all part of Middle College. Since opening its doors in 2003, Middle College has ushered 750 graduates down the aisle to receive their diplomas. In recent years Middle College has expanded its programming to include certifications in Warehousing, Construction, Customer Service, and Nurse Aide. 

Now, Natasha's story. Natasha was in the very first Middle College class held in the fall of 2003 at Reynolds Community College. As she recalls, "We were at the Downtown campus. At the time I was renting a room in the West End and working full time at Big Lots. I had to take buses and taxis to get there, but I would get there." 

When she entered the program that fall, Natasha’s time as a ward of Virginia had just ended. She tried to get back in to high school, but she had been bounced around so much she didn't have the right credits for graduation. She reached out to one of the homes where she had been living and they told her about Middle College. She met Ms. Epps and Ms. Washko. She filled out the paper work and interviewed for a spot. And she was in. “Getting in” changed her life. 

"Ms. Epps and Ms. Washko have never stopped being a resource for me. They set me up to go to college. They set me up with exactly what I needed to succeed,” Natasha said. “Without parents to guide you, you become your own guardian. You don't have anyone to answer questions or help you figure out school. Ms. Epps and Ms. Washko became my mentors. They are always so happy and helpful. I had so many questions the first couple of years, and they always made time to answer them. Even after I graduated and up until now they still keep in touch with me and see how I’m doing."

From Middle College Natasha earned a certificate in Computer Aided Design (CAD) from Reynolds. “While working towards my certificate I was a single mom living at St. Joseph’s Villa. I was working at the Big Lots across the street, and going to the Reynolds Parham campus close by. I would catch rides to school or just walk.” 

With the help of Ms. Epps, Ms. Washko and past-president Dr. Gary Rhodes, Natasha got an internship with a large architectural firm. “Having that internship was huge,” she said, “I listened, watched, and followed. It was a world of difference from stocking shelves and being a cashier at Big Lots. I knew I belonged in this new world. But I had so many questions, I was sometimes afraid to ask, so I learned to “google” what I wanted to know. I was a drafter and pretty soon I became the go-to person for CAD/Revit questions. Having to figure things out on my own, I retained a lot of technical knowledge.” 

Natasha’s work as an intern was exceptional, and the company immediately offered her a full-time job with benefits. She stayed with them for nearly ten years, before taking another position at a larger, international firm where she has been for the past two years. In classic Natasha spirit she said, “My next step is to become a BIM Manager.” Building Information Modelling Management positions are highly complex and technical roles, given only to the best CAD/Revit super-users. While Natasha may claim to have had some self-doubt on her journey, her voice is clear and confident when she talks about taking on such a strategic responsibility as a BIM Manager. 

Natasha is soft-spoken and thoughtful, but she is unmistakably determined and focused when she tells her story. “Middle College was my first stepping stone to being successful. I quickly realized after turning 18 and being out of the states’ care that I needed to do something that would allow me to support myself better. Slowly everything lined up. Middle College was a big part of that beginning.”

To go from her past to her present was a huge leap. “This goes for anything in life,” Natasha said, “if you don’t think about it too much, then it’s not so overwhelming. I just broke each step down into manageable chunks and it wasn’t too bad. What I would tell my now 13 year old daughter, and what I would tell anyone who started out like me: make a plan. Pick one thing you’d love to do for the rest of your life and go for it. Stay on a path. Stay driven. It really helps me to write it down. I am obsessive about writing down my plans. I’ll take a picture of it with my phone and look at it all the time to the point where I have it memorized. You just have to keep after it, whatever it is.”

Could Natasha has achieved all of this without Middle College? She's one plucky woman, with amazing grit, so she probably would have landed on her feet. But, because of Middle College she didn't have to land on her feet alone. Ms. Epps and Ms. Washko were there to guide her when she had no one else. They were there to support her when she had no one else. And for that, Natasha said, “I will always be grateful, and very glad the program is still there to help others.” 

Like Natasha, the story of Middle College, Ms. Epps and Ms. Washko is a story of the present and future. Their successes have been impressive, but there is much more to come.

Friday, January 18, 2019

Marvette Richardson is on Fire

This girl is on fire
This girl is on fire
She's walking on fire
This girl is on fire
Looks like a girl, but she's a flame
So bright, she can burn your eyes
Better look the other way
You can try but you'll never forget her name
She's on top of the world
                                                       - Alicia Keys

Marvette Richardson brings to mind these lyrics by Alicia Keys. She is a woman with a passion, one she’s been stoking her whole life. And she is on fire. “I’ve always loved helping people. When I was young I used to take care of my mother. I just loved it," Marvette said. "You have to do what you love, and love what you do.” Only love could explain how anyone could put in Marvette’s hours and still have fire and passion.

Marvette grew up on Richmond’s Church Hill and went to John F. Kennedy High School. Immediately after graduation, at age 17, she took a nursing assistant class and started working as a Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA). In 2001 she came back to school to earn her Licensed Practical Nursing (LPN), and kept working. “My passion had always been to become a registered nurse,” said Marvette. “I knew it would be there for me eventually. My daddy used to tell me: ‘You wake up with nursing on your mind, go to bed with nursing on your mind, and you’ll be a nurse.’ He was right.” It’s taken Marvette a while, but she’s on her way now. 

To understand what makes Marvette tick, consider this: She lives five minutes away from another community college, but when she was able to finally come back to school in the fall of 2018 to pursue her RN, she chose Reynolds. Reynolds is a full hour away from her home. Why Reynolds? “Well, my aunt, my mom’s sister, Lily Waddy, went to Reynolds a long, long time ago. She was smart, really smart. She worked and went to school and I wanted to be just like her. I wanted to follow in her footsteps. She’s tickled pink now that I am going to Reynolds.” That’s Marvette.

And she has followed in her aunt’s footsteps. Marvette works full time at Central State Hospital and is now in her second semester as a full time student at Reynolds taking the prerequisite courses to enter the nursing program. She will be eligible to apply in August of 2019. 

“In my first semester I didn’t have a clue,” Marvette confessed, “I loaded up my classes – psychology, English, and three math classes. I did way too much. For my next semester I realized I had to scale back a bit. At first I didn’t know anything about research or how to use the library. Those librarians saved me. Ms. Jocelyn [Tichenor] signed me up for a research class. They taught me how to use the library to get my work done. I would spend hours there studying until I understood something. Each time I made a good grade I would run back there to tell them what I had done.” 

Marvette is an awesome cook. She also loves to bake, to decorate, and to do things with her granddaughter, but right now she tells her, “We’ll play later.” Marvette says her spare time is taken up with watching videos on subjects pertaining to her studies. Biology is her current focus and, she says, “I listen and listen until I can retain the information. I take the quizzes and play games, too.” Her granddaughter might have a few years to wait to get on Marvette’s schedule again. Marvette’s ultimate goal is to become an emergency room nurse and continue her studies at Virginia Commonwealth University to earn her Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN). 

Marvette's advice to others: “I’m just happy to be part of the Reynolds community. At first I was scared, but I’ve had a real good learning experience so far. What I would say to anyone else thinking about coming back to school is: use your time wisely. Study. The only thing you have to fear is fear itself. If you don’t understand something, ask questions. Use your resources. There’s lots of them. Use them all.”

Marvette is a woman on fire. She wakes up with nursing on her mind, and she goes to bed with nursing on her mind, and there is little doubt, like her daddy told her, she’ll become a registered nurse. 

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Kim Cain – Scholarship Manager

Reynolds Office of Institutional Advancement

Where did you grow up and what was it like?
I grew up in a small town in Florida where we didn’t have to lock doors or worry about playing outside.

How long have you worked for Reynolds and what positions have you held?
I have been at Reynolds for 18 years. I have worked in Financial Operations my entire time until I was  was hired as the Scholarship Manager on January 10 of this year.

Please tell us about your new role as Scholarship Manager? 
I’m still learning about it.

What do you look forward to doing most in your new position?
Being able to work closely with students and helping them to be able to afford college without going into debt.

The Scholarship Bowl is coming up in February. Please tell us more about this event and how faculty and staff can support it.
This will be our 16th Scholarship Bowl. We are looking forward to seeing more teams this year. We are asking that everyone bring an item for the Food Pantry. We will not only help a student with their tuition, fees and books, but we will also help many students that need a little food to get them through the day.

What is your favorite activity outside of your work at Reynolds?
I like to play Pokémon with my son. It gets me out into different parks to walk and spend quality family time.

What do like most about Richmond?
The change in seasons. Growing up in Florida you didn’t get to see leaves change and snow. Yes, I said it, I like the snow. Not only for the days off, but it is so pretty.

If you won $100 Million in the Mega Millions lottery what would you do with the money?
I would pay off my bills and my son’s bills. Then I’d retire and travel. 

Monday, January 7, 2019

A Positive Spirit Simmers in The Kitchens at Reynolds

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Chef Miller,

I hope all is well with you, Chef. In the past few years since talking with you, I've established myself fairly well in the Roanoke area.  I'm currently, the Executive Chef at Billy's (

 I try to continuously learn something new every day, but the techniques and fundamentals that I was taught at Reynolds have proven extremely valuable.  I do always love to show up the "know it all" line cooks, with the French name of what they are trying to impress everybody with.  I've won two local competitions and one regional chef competition, been on the news more than ten times, and most recently I was offered a new position as overseer/consultant for seven establishments. 

I consider you, and the education I received at Reynolds, a massive contributing factor to my success.  I greatly appreciate what I've learned from you, and wanted to reach out to sincerely thank you for the knowledge.  I hope you have a good holiday season.

Dave Hirshman
AAS Culinary Arts, Spring 2016

Students past and present will quickly tell you the Reynolds Culinary Arts Program is something special. That alums like Dave Hirshman write to say “Thank you” is a testament to the lasting positive spirit that starts simmering in the Reynolds kitchen during their studies. Years later students recall lessons they learned, their cooking successes and tragedies, and they never fail to remark on how incredibly prepared they were to face the rigors of their culinary careers.

Dave Hirshman left his home in Newport News to study business at Virginia Commonwealth University. After earning an undergraduate degree in business management and spending a few years in the corporate workforce he said, “I went back to the kitchens.” He liked the work, he liked the atmosphere, and after researching his culinary education options, he chose Reynolds.

After graduation, romance took Dave to Roanoke, Virginia where he immediately took a position as a line cook and sous chef. Six months later he was notified by text message that the restaurant he was working in had closed. Finding restaurant work again was easy, but it wasn’t until Billy’s – the number one restaurant in Roanoke – that he found the right restaurant. Two years later, Dave is both Executive Chef at Billy’s and has been offered a position as a consultant for seven of the other restaurants in the Billy’s group.

Chef and consultant are only part of Dave’s work. Dave has become the “face” of Billy’s. He has appeared on television more than ten times to demonstrate everything from simple food preparation to a segment on what to do with Thanksgiving leftovers. He has gone spatula to spatula with some terrific chefs and has won local and regional cooking competitions. “I learned how to keep my cool at Reynolds,” says Dave, “Chef Jesse taught us to focus on what we are doing, focus on the food, and it takes off the stress. Whatever else is going on, stay focused on the food and we’ll be okay. Chef has so much life experience to share with students. If you listen, you take away so much more than just the textbook and preparation. He can tell you how to run things.”

Dave’s days are long, but he says Reynolds prepared him for that too. “Chef Jesse’s work ethic is incredible. To watch someone work that hard, and work all those hours, is truly motivating.” Dave puts in his hours too, beginning at 9:00 a.m. with preparation for lunch service that runs until about 3:00 p.m. He then sits down to administrative duties until 5:00 p.m. and afterwards heads back to the dining room to observe the servers and take notes he will share later. Between 8 and 9 p.m. is “Table Touch” where Dave meets and greets diners and asks about their experience at Billy’s.

“Anyone can work in a kitchen,” Dave says, “but without education, staff lack the root of understanding. The Reynolds Culinary program breaks down the how and what of the work so students get a complete understanding of the business. Graduates can go anywhere, in any restaurant, and immediately feel comfortable and confident with their skills.”

“My favorite part of the program was the capstone class at the end. We were given the liberty to design the entire menu, do all the costing, ordering, and planning, just as it is done in the industry.” Dave admits a couple of his courses were “tragic” at the beginning, but with Chef’s help, they were much improved the second time around, and he learned a lot from the trial and error it took to get it right.

And the best part of a career in culinary arts? “Being a chef allows you to use your artistic expression and creativity. The industry has changed so much in the past 20 years. It has gained respect and is revered now as a career. I see customers from all over the world – CEOs, COOs, all kinds of important people – and they show their respect. It’s personally satisfying that they ask questions and listen to what I have to say.”

From Dave’s experience it’s clear it takes more than a sharp set of knives to be successful in the culinary field. Just as important are: staying cool under pressure, the ability to manage people and food, and excellent communication skills. “Don’t think you know it all either,” says Dave, “Learn something new every day. And, most important, don’t let your ego get ahead of you.” 

Sounds like wisdom straight out of Chef Jesse’s playbook.

A note about Billy’s:
Billy’s was voted the number one restaurant in Roanoke and gets a rating of 4.5 on review sites such as Trip Advisor and Open Table. The restaurant got a makeover in 2009 and has been a popular dining destination ever since. The cuisine is American with a distinctly artistic twist, no doubt the handiwork of Dave Hirshman.

Thursday, January 3, 2019

Simply Surreal

Reynolds Culinary Student Offered Position
at Top Washington, DC Restaurant

Willoughby Harrington is a man of few words, but a chef-to-be with an abundance of skills. After completing the classroom portion of his culinary education at Reynolds in August 2018, he began an internship with The Inn at Little Washington. A month before his time was up, The Inn offered him a full time position.

But, Willoughby is certainly no ordinary person. And, The Inn at Little Washington is certainly no ordinary restaurant. The two are a perfect match.

To understand why this match is perfect, first consider Willoughby. “Willoughby is exceptional,” says Reynolds Adjunct Faculty Kathleen Cossaboon. So exceptional, Cossaboon asked a friend to make the introductions that landed Willoughby his internship. “He has an acute sense of food, thinks out of the box and is passionate about his craft. He is also humble [painfully so when asked to talk about his achievements!] and is excited to learn new things.  On top of being a committed student he carries himself professionally and has already established his personal brand for the hospitality industry.”

Now, consider The Inn at Little Washington. The Inn’s kitchen has been touted by Washington food critics as “the most beautiful kitchen in the world.” Willoughby says, “The kitchen is like a museum. One person polishes the kitchen’s copper and brass – hoods, ovens, everything - five nights a week when dinner service concludes at midnight.” The “polisher” finishes in time for the first crew to begin at 5 a.m. The 2019 Michelin Guide awarded The Inn at Little Washington its highest accolade of three stars. The coveted third Michelin star makes Patrick O’Connell and The Inn the first and only restaurant in the Washington D.C. region to receive the honor. The Inn’s list of accolades is long and prestigious. It is listed among the top restaurants in the world.

The Reynolds Culinary Arts program has a special way of connecting its students with the places they dream of going. The matches between student and restaurant, like this one between Willoughby and The Inn, seem perfect, almost destine in the stars. During his studies at Reynolds Willoughby discovered The Inn at Little Washington, and its founder and owner Patrick O’Connell. “Patrick O’Connell has been one of my idols for some time now,” said Willoughby, “The Inn was the focus of one of my projects. I recreated one of their recipes.” And now he has met and works with O’Connell. “He is a warm, wonderful, kind person,” Willoughby says, “and a great, great chef. He shakes everyone’s hand at the start of a shift.” The significance of this simple gesture isn’t lost on Willoughby.

Television food shows have fostered the impression that commercial kitchens – particularly those of the most distinctive restaurants – are hectic nightmares with chefs running about yelling, oven fires, and last minute pushes to add garnish to a dish as it heads to the dining room. Not so at The Inn at Little Washington. “The kitchen is incredibly well organized and is run with amazing precision and efficiency,” says Willoughby, “food is sampled several times to assure quality throughout the service time. Chaos here is anything less than perfect.”

While Chef O’Connell considers The Inn at Little Washington, “. . . just a hideaway in the country owned by someone who likes to entertain a lot,” his standards for excellence are sky high and the vetting process for staff members is no spring walk in a Virginia meadow. “My internship “interview” lasted 12 hours,” Willoughby explained, “it involved working two shifts, prepping for lunch and for dinner service, but everyone was so kind, they fed me constantly, every two hours I got to try something.” While perfection is the number one priority, the Dalmatian print chef pants worn by all are a clear indication that the work of The Inn also has its light side.

The Inn being approximately 70 miles from DC, commuting wasn’t an option, so when offered the internship, Willoughby moved to Washington, Virginia. O’Connell being O’Connell, understands student interns have limited resources and has made housing available to them in a property called The Piedmont House.  Not only is he the consummate host to his dining guests, but O’Connell being self-made, and starting his restaurant with a wood burning cook stove and a frying pan, humbly appreciates what it means to start with nothing.

In addition to giving him his introduction to The Inn at Little Washington, Willoughby says, “The most valuable thing I learned at Reynolds was team building. It is so important. When you understand how to work on a team, it all comes together.”

And come together it has for Willoughby. As he finishes his internship he’s debating his next steps. The Inn has a line cook position for him if he wants it, but he says, “I have a lot of options after this.” Right now he is still taking it all in. “This has been a simply great opportunity, a real eye-opener. I have met some of my culinary heroes here. The whole thing has been a surreal experience. Simply surreal.”
Finding yourself in the place of your dreams has that quality. Simply surreal.

Willoughby Harrington will graduate from the Reynolds Culinary Arts program in May of 2019.