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REfire Culinary Program changing lives in Leon County

Posted at 11:24 PM, Jul 21, 2022
and last updated 2022-07-22 12:48:40-04

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WTXL) — The REfire Culinary training program in Tallahassee is a program giving people with felony convictions a second chance.

"Just because I had messed up in life I had a second chance and I could start over," said Tamara Lutz.

Lutz is a culinary instructor at REfire Culinary training program.

Before this she was a student back in 2019.
She said it's important for her to be an example to others.

"This day and age people are very judgmental for one and people need to know that your past doesn't define you," said Lutz.

REfire Culinary training program is designed to provide opportunities to people who have felony convictions.

During the program people are provided with tools and training to become chefs or receive job placement support.

For graduating student Julius Davis this was not easy.

"I been waiting to do this for a while. I've started school a couple of times but I ain't finish it," said Davis.

Davis said this time is different. Friday he graduates and this isn't only for him but also his son.

"Now he know he can accomplish things to," said Davis.

A total of 90% of the people who have graduated from this program have been able to find jobs within 90 days.

With this year's graduation, a total of 70 graduates have gotten that opportunity.

That's an accomplishment Chef Rebecca Kelly-Manders told ABC 27 makes this program a success.

"When I was struggling in my 20s and when I had my felony convictions, I was lucky and I had someone their to help me pull my life back together," said Kelly-Manders.

Kelly-Manders said it doesn't matter what any of her students have done before they stepped foot in the kitchen.

This program is based on new beginnings and Lutz said that's the reminder everyone deserves.

"Be better not bitter," said Lutz.

A message she's sending to everyone in the community.

REfire started in 2017.

All the students graduating Friday already have jobs lined up.

REfire said their graduates have a less than 10% recidivism rate.