Justin’s House Teaches Kids Life Skills Through Cooking
By David Alexander

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Justin’s House Teaches Kids Life Skills Through Cooking Justin’s House Teaches Kids Life Skills Through Cooking

Justin’s House believes when kids have strong family connections they are less likely to turn to alcohol. To that end, the nonprofit, which focuses on curbing teen alcoholism, organized a 10-day Lifeskills Building Culinary Day Camp.

“It’s really all about providing a program where you can have activities for kids to do on the weekends when they don’t really have better things to do,” said Kelly Villarreal, president and CEO of Justin’s House. “[The goal is to] show them they can do other things, to show them they are talented and they are smart and the same time building a sense of family to them ... showing them there are people that care about them.”

The camp, which ran from July 18 to 28, emphasized values such as courage, perseverance, family, acceptance, discipline and initiative -- all through cooking.

Additionally, the culinary camp, which was held at the Bill Wilson Center, 3490 The Alameda in Santa Clara, taught 15 kids ages 13 to 16 about table etiquette, food safety, sanitation, teamwork and interpersonal skills.

The camp also featured non-culinary activities such as journal writing, games, music circles and yoga. The day camp was Justin’s House first event dealing with kids, and Villarreal said it is the first big step in established itself as a civic group.

According to Villarreal, the group’s first major goal is to secure a space of its own to host events for kids after school. Right now, the group is focused on networking.

Each day at the culinary camp, the kids would focus on a theme of the day as they prepared meals, dined and cleaned up. Organizers encouraged the kids to share their personal experiences and open a dialog on the day’s topic.

Villarreal said Justin’s House staff will continue to work the same kids throughout the school and grow the program for next year as well as continue solidifying the concept of family meal and the themes from the camp in other activities.

“A lot of these kids don’t sit down and have family meals with their parents they don’t turn off their phones ... and learn what is going on in each others lives,” Villarreal said.

Although the camp was a success, Villarreal said interest waned during some of the activities and she would like to make some minor tweaks. Next year, Villarreal said she would like to split the time between the culinary camp and wilderness camping and hopes the program will grow to about 20 kids by then.