FSTA Spotlight: Meet Valerie

Valerie came to CFBNJ’s Food Service Training Academy (FSTA) to leave her past mistakes behind and become a baker. With a passion for art, she enjoys making pastries and also wants to learn how to create wedding cakes.

“I’m trying to develop myself into a better person than I was before,” she said.

Currently, Valerie resides in a halfway house, and FSTA is her ticket to a sustainable and fulfilling post-release career. She learned about the program through New Jersey Reentry Corporation, a nonprofit agency that CFBNJ partners with to help reduce barriers to employment for those returning from incarceration.

Valerie has lived in a shelter and struggled with addiction, but now she’s on a path to a better future.

“You can change the people, places, and things around you,” she said, “but you take yourself with you everywhere you go. It’s not an easy road to make a change in yourself, but you can do it.”

Hailing from Jersey City, Valerie adores her family and has two kids, ages 9 and 17. Her daughter is also artistic and loves doing makeup. She describes her son as a gamer and calls her sister her absolute best friend.

Valerie hopes to set a good example for her kids and the rest of her family. That’s where FSTA comes in.

Her favorite part of the program was the time she spent in bulk production making nutritious meals for hungry seniors and children.

“I loved the experience of being able to feed kids in need. It encourages you to do more for the community,” she told us.

Now, she’s on her way to a career making brides’ dreams come true with her gorgeous wedding cakes.

When asked what advice she would give to future FSTA students, Valerie said: “Be open-minded to learn new things. Don’t close yourself off to new opportunities.”