His Mother and Job Corps Kept This Young Man on the Right Path

Rahquan Gray-Smith is sharpening his skills in the culinary-arts program at the South Bronx Job Corps Center. After Job Corps, he has big plans.

“I plan on moving and starting my own family and starting my own business,” he says. “I want to open my own restaurant one day.”

He loves to cook.

“About two years ago was when I really started cooking. It was just something that I fell in love with from the moment I did it.”

For Rahquan, cooking is therapeutic.

“I use cooking as a way to escape from the world. You know, some people have their hobbies, others listen to music and do other things. And for me, cooking is that escape.”

Escaping from the world is something Rahquan needed to do after growing up in a tough neighborhood in Newark, New Jersey.

“When I was in like middle school,” he explains, “I was with the wrong crowd a lot. They were all about the streets and things like that.”

High school wasn’t much better. But there was one person who kept him from completely going in the wrong direction—his mother.

“I always had a mom that supported me in whatever I did. She always wanted me to stay on the right track. So, I wanted to be on the streets, but I always had my mom in my ear telling me not to do it.”

It worked. He ended up in Job Corps, a decision he says he’ll never regret.

“So, I gave it a chance. And right now, in this point of my life, I can honestly say it was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made in my life…Being here, it changed me. It made me into a better man. It’s just the structure and the people that are here in this place. It’s just amazing.”

Rahquan’s mother is so happy to see her son change his life.

“And that feeling, to see her that happy—it just made me want to do more. It made me want to achieve more and show her that the person that she raised isn’t a bad person.”