Hello, my name is Jennifer Rejniak, and I am currently a second year student here at the Culinary Arts Institute of Montgomery County Community College (CAI). I was chosen as the 2014 J. Alexander and Alma Jacobs scholarship recipient, and I would like to convey my deepest and sincerest gratitude for this honor.
My decision to enroll at the CAI turned into the GREATEST decision of my life. I am 38 years old and this is my second time enrolled in college. Prior to attending the CAI, I was a park ranger for Montgomery County Parks and Heritage Services for 10 years. It was a career that many people would love and enjoy, which I did, but it wasn’t my true calling. On July 22, 2012, everything in my life that I had known changed in a blink of an eye. On my way to work, I was involved in a car accident that left me severely injured. My doctors and physical therapist had suggested that it was time to resign my position as a park ranger since it was a very physically demanding job. This was one of the lowest points in my life. I had been a ranger for so long that it was my way of life.
However, while I was incapacitated, the one happy thought that kept my mind at ease and continued to surface time and time again was that I was being given a second chance to finally follow my dreams, and to take the passion that has been in my heart for so long and make it my reality. I wanted to study, learn and work hard to become a chef. As long as I can remember, I have loved to cook and create dishes that made my family and friends happy and comforted.
I worked hard to physically recover, and after much research, I excitedly enrolled for the fall 2013 semester at the Culinary Arts Institute. I never felt like I belonged anywhere until I walked through these doors. It was a tough struggle to get here but meeting my fellow classmates and hearing their hopes, fears, and dreams, solidified everything that I was feeling. We are all here to pursue our passion and love affair with the culinary arts. Being a part of the inaugural class to step foot inside this beautiful facility has opened my eyes to the fact that I am a part of something very special. The original 115 students that adorned themselves with their chef’s caps and aprons last fall became a part of this school’s history.
When we learned the Forty Foot Cafe was going to be operational this semester and our Retail Service and Operations class was spearheading the endeavor, a great sense of pride washed across us all. We wanted to set a precedence for future students. The opening of the new cafe is a symbol of our hard work, creativity and dedication to culinary arts. It is a direct reflection of our education and the skills we have learned from these amazing chefs, who we are lucky enough to have as not only teachers but mentors.