Two members of the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community, Denise Gonzales and Tina LeCompte, are living proof that hard work and perseverance can overcome any challenge. Both ladies recently completed internships at the Two Waters Café, and afterward were hired on by Aramark, the café’s operator, to continue in their jobs. Here’s how they achieved their goals.
Back to School: It’s Never Too Late
While dealing with the loss of her home from fire about three years ago, Denise Gonzales was able to remain positive (through the help of God, she said) and continue on with her life. Gonzales is the daughter of Sybil Burke and Severo Gonzales. She previously had worked as a hairdresser, but decided to make a change and take on a new challenge: to go back to school and learn a completely new career.
“I went to Scottsdale Culinary Institute,” said Gonzales. “It was always something I wanted to do, so when I had the opportunity to go I took advantage of it.”
The Scottsdale Culinary Institute teaches culinary arts according to the famous Le Cordon Bleu culinary school program and offers programs in Culinary Arts, Patisserie and Baking, Hospitality and Restaurant Management, and Online Culinary Management. The programs take from nine to 21 months to complete.
There was just one problem: After being out of school for more than 25 years, Gonzales did not know how to use a computer. This made it difficult for her to get her term papers done; but with determination, she made it her goal to go to the Scottsdale Public Library to complete her work.
“Everything was all new to me,” said Gonzales about returning to school. “All the students were just out of high school. It was a hard thing for me to adjust to, and I struggled a lot because my lack of computer knowledge.” But she also found it interesting and exciting at the same time, and tried hard to absorb all the information that the chefs were teaching.
Gonzales decided she wanted to serve her internship at the new Two Waters Café, because she knew of another Community member who had his internship there. She has learned a lot from the different cooks at the café. Gonzales likes to make ribs; she learned how from her co-workers.
“They have a really good team [at the Two Waters Café]. We are really lucky to have them here,” said Gonzales.
If anyone is interested in culinary arts, heed Gonzales’ advice: “It is never too late; I am a living example.”
A former shift manager and grill cook, Tina LeCompte has worked in many different restaurants. She decided to take her career to the next level by going to college to earn a degree in hotel and restaurant management. Recently she also completed her internship with the Two Waters Café.
LeCompte took classes at Coconino Community College, and then her educational advisor, Erica Outcalt from the SRPMIC Education Department, suggested the Two Waters Café internship. That is where LeCompte learned about the catering process and how to display catering trays.
“I also learned that hard work gains respect from the [Two Waters Café] team,” said LeCompte.
Although she is finished with school, LeCompte still misses going to class and participating with the students in hands-on activities. One thing she does not miss, however, are the long hours preparing for tests and exams—and the stress that comes with it.
“If you’re someone who wants to get a higher education or climb the ladder at your workplace, don’t make excuses and don’t let obstacles stop you from taking on the challenge,” said LeCompte. “Education and a career are a journey, and it’s worth it.”
LeCompte is the daughter of Ernestine Johnson and Dennis LeCompte.