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Helping Students Find Their Potential: Carla Domingo, the 2019 Catalyst for Change Winner

Catalyst Kitchens (CK) members nominate outstanding individuals at their organizations each year for our Catalyst for Change award, which is designed to recognize staff dedicated to student success. We started this award in 2014 to highlight staff who share their talent and energy directly with students   advancing their careers. Throughout the years we have awarded passionate, driven individuals who have directly impacted student lives within the CK network.

When hitting a rough patch in life, a listening ear and compassionate spirit can make all the difference. Meet Carla Domingo, workforce development employment navigator at Forge City Works, a longtime restauranteur turned teacher and counselor for youth and adult culinary training students. She has walked alongside students for six years throughout their transition from student to intern to employee and is our 2019 Catalyst for Change Award winner.

Nominated by her colleague, Trainee and Employer Engagement Manager Becky McGuigan, Carla is committed to the ongoing success of her students with a focus on strong employer partner relationships and productive internship experiences. Carla works alongside students in their first days at an internship to help them transition into a new workspace and slowly remove their culinary “training wheels.”

Carla embodies the “tough on standards, tender on people” approach in her student relationships. Her no-nonsense mentality holds students accountable for their work and challenges students to see their true potential. When asked about her students’ greatest challenges, Carla admits that sometimes a student’s biggest barrier is themselves. “They have so much potential, it can be sad to see that no one has told them that,” says Carla. Her goal is to show students how capable they are by fostering a non-judgmental space for growth.

Carla takes a hands-on approach to teaching starting on day one during student orientation. She likes to be part of the process as they move through their internships, successes and struggles in the kitchen and personal challenges. Trust building is a huge component of her work with students – she says it’s imperative to do what you say you will and slowly build connection over time.

Forge City Works runs both youth and adult culinary programs, helping adults find entry-level restaurant positions, and youth find customer service-based positions. They’ve continued to provide social service support through the COVID-19 crisis and have stayed in touch with students through self-care classes and regular check ins. They’ve even graduated five students in their youth program and secured internships for two students at local food pantries supporting emergency meals relief programs. In this way, their impact is even greater – finding work for their students and providing necessary hunger relief through their local partner organizations.

Past Winners

Every year since 2015, our network has honored the amazing work of someone making a difference and changing lives through work in a member program.  Read about their stories by clicking below.