August, 16 2018

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Excelsior Youth Center Helping Troubled Teens Get Cookin'

The troubled teen girls at Excelsior Youth Center might not have chosen to come to this residential treatment program, but they certainly want to be in Miss Trisha's culinary class.

They have to try out for the class, and buy their own equipment and uniforms. Some of these young cooks never knew what it was like to bake holiday cookies, or even eat dinner with a family.

Teaching These Teens More than Cooking Skills

"A lot of times, they don't know how to eat with a knife and fork," says Trisha Wilson, culinary instructor and mother figure to many of the girls.

Others yearn to return home. Tabrina, 17, was happy about a visit home for Thanksgiving and planned to bake the center's famous pumpkin bread and bread pudding. "I always liked to cook with my mom," she said. "I'm gonna make some homemade desserts."

The Delicious End of a Residential Treatment Center

Yummy aromas and tasty bread are part of the means to an end at Excelsior, where most of the residents have come from an average of six other "placements" foster care, rehab, jail. More than 80 percent of them successfully complete the therapeutic program here.

"It's a small kitchen and there are a lot of girls," said Wilson. "They have to learn to work as a team and cooperate."

Troubled Teens Get Exposure to Food and Role Models

Today, the girls scrubbed the kitchen and ironed their chef coats for a first: a visit from pastry chef Yasmin Lozada-Hissom, who taught them how to make an apple crostata, a rustic pie.

Her demonstration was part of a program meant to expose the girls to strong female role models. Eyebrows and credibility points went up when Lozada-Hissom, a native of Venezuela, switched to Spanish as she explained a step.

Mix your "drys" together so the salt doesn't stay in a clump.

Cut butter into small chunks to that pieces don't stick together.

Use cold flour.

The less we mix the flour, the better.

Flour the spatula before lifting the crostata onto the baking sheet.

As the girls peeled apples and mixed dough, Lozada-Hissom marveled at "the life in their eyes, regardless of all their experiences in the past. For me it's a joy to be here, but as well, I feel honored to be in front of these girls."

How These Troubled Teens Feel About the Program

For their part, the girls shared their feelings about the program:

Natasha, 15: "This keeps me going every day. It puts me in a space where I'm happy and I don't have to worry about anything except food."

Nikki, 17: "It helps with skills that we don't know I know how to sharpen a knife now."

Heather, 16: "I always liked to cook at home. I used to make spaghetti on Sundays with my grandfather."

Tabrina, 17: "This place here helped me focus on my dreams. I know I will make better choices."

Related Articles:
Georgia Sherriff Aims to Scare Troubled Teens Straight 12/5/07
New Jersey Residents Seek to Solve Youth Crisis 12/05/07
Novia Scotia plans $2M overhaul of youth services 12/3/07
Mt Carmel Youth Ranch Treated More Than 600 12/1/07
Tough California Grandma Helps Troubled Teens 11/29/07
New Residential Treatment Center in Alabama to Help with Anorexia, Bulimia 11/28/07
Wisconsin Based Challenge Academy Helps Troubled Teens 11/27/07
North Carolina Residential Program Enlists Santa's Helper 11/23/07
Utah Troubled Teen Program Gives Back 11/23/07
Program Helps Florida Troubled Teen 11/22/07

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