Article courtesy of Sunflower Bakery

“Learning differences made it hard at college. I didn’t know what I wanted to do.” This was the dilemma facing 23-year-old Jolie Band, as well as so many others her age. She heard about Sunflower Bakery’s Employment Training Programs and began the Café Sunflower Program. One month in, both the bakery and the café were shut down due to COVID-19.

Jolie was motivated and ready to get to work when the bakery safely re-opened in June. She made the switch to the Pastry Arts Program, where she found she was good at scooping dough and other basic baking tasks. The small class size was helpful, and she got all her questions answered. Nervous at first, Jolie made friends and realized that she was happier being part of a team in the kitchen.

Jolie became more independent and more determined. “I am cut out for this!” she exclaimed enthusiastically. She loved having structure, a list to follow to help her focus and recipes that remained consistent.

Jolie’s anxiety and processing issues were managed at Sunflower, and the chef-instructors created strategies to help her learn and grow. For example, Jolie’s processing issues make it difficult for her to write down details; however, she is a strong visual learner. The chefs explained all the steps orally and demonstrated them. By reducing writing to a minimum, Jolie was able to learn by doing, and she excelled.

She became the “Brownie Queen,” because she made so many so well.  She loved decorating sugar cookies, making brownie pops, rolling out pie crusts and cracking eggs one-handed. Jolie understood that she “got better and better by doing them over and over.” She also passed the ServSafe exam on her first try and received her food handler’s certification.

Jolie gained more confidence and worked through her fear of doing something wrong. When she started at Sunflower, her anxiety was overwhelming. As she mastered baking skills, made friends and learned how to handle herself more professionally, she was able to learn resiliency. “If I made a couple of mistakes, I learned to fix them. I learned to deal with my anxiety and not let it hold me back. That was really big! I love this place; I learned a lot and now I am ready for a job.”

After completing her pastry arts training, Jolie looks forward to interviewing and hopes to work in a traditional bakery or the bakery department of a large grocery store. She wants to be an “all-around baker” and is eager to make people happy through food.

Jolie gives this advice to her peers, “If you are feeling lost in life, even if college doesn’t work out, you can still find something to be successful and that makes you happy!” For Jolie, that something has been baking and training at Sunflower Bakery.

The Jewish Federation of Greater Washington proudly celebrates Jewish Disability Awareness, Acceptance & Inclusion Month! In February and year round, we are proud to join with organizations and communities around the world to raise awareness, champion the rights, and meet the needs of people with disabilities. Together, we can foster a more inclusive Jewish community that recognizes the value, dignity, and capabilities of each and every individual.