Like for many, taking years off work to exclusively attend college is not an option for ShaWanda Weatherspoon.
She enjoys her job as a chef at an upscale restaurant on Smith Mountain Lake, and she has a young daughter to support. Fortunately, Virginia Western Community College’s Culinary Arts program provides her the flexibility to honor both work and family obligations while pursuing her dream.
“My favorite place to be is in a kitchen, making amazing food for people who enjoy great food,” she says. “I eventually want to be an executive chef and own my own restaurant. At Virginia Western, I’m learning the skills to move me another step closer to accomplishing that.”
Weatherspoon has taken the majority of her courses in downtown Roanoke at the Roanoke Higher Education Center, which provides kitchens and classroom space all in one convenient location. She has been able to enroll in long blocks of classes during the evening and at other non-traditional times, which allows her to fit her education around work and family needs.
The culinary coursework hasn’t strictly been about slicing and dicing. She has taken off her apron to learn about accounting principles and make important industry contacts.
“In addition to learning the skills in the kitchen that I’ll need every day, I’ve also learned how a business actually works,” she says. “And the exposure to other local chefs will help me rise in the culinary industry.”
Weatherspoon has found that the flexibility Virginia Western offers means that she can bake her cake and eat it too.