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Determined to Reach My Goal

Congratulations to Kendra Derrick, third place winner of the Future Alumni Essay Contest!



I am a native New Yorker, born and raised in Harlem on the west side between Manhattan Avenue and Morningside. The one thing that I knew I wanted to be when I grew up was a chef just like “My Daddy,” as I affectionately called him.

Growing up, I would always stick close by his side when he was in the kitchen. I would watch the way he maneuvered so gracefully and with passion. The love that he showed for cooking and feeding his family was something that I’d never seen anywhere else besides at my grandmother’s. The passion that he had to feed people piqued my interest and inspired me to want to cook. I moved down here to South Carolina to finish High School and I graduated in 2006.

At the age of 18, I became pregnant. I was so scared to tell my father and have him be disappointed in me. I had just graduated from high school the year before and saw how much joy and happiness it brought to my parents' eyes. I felt like I wasn’t going to get that look of disappointment out of his eyes. He did come around and got used to me preparing to have a baby and was accepting that he was going to be a “Pop Pop” again.

I was 5 ½ months pregnant when I got the worst phone call of my life. It was a call from my cousin in New York to tell me that my father had died just moments before from a heart attack. My world was crushed, and I didn’t know how I would function without the man who showed me what true love was and protected and provided for my family and me.

After having experienced such a huge loss, I cried for years and got tired of wasting time sulking about something that I couldn’t change. It hurt so badly, but I had to change that energy into a positive force field. I was determined to get my life back on track and do something that was important to me that would be a representation of the impact that my father had on me. I enrolled in the Culinary Arts program here at TTC with the Culinary Institute of Charleston and never looked back.

I graduated in 2016 and had many obstacles trying to get in my way, whether it was people not following up with babysitting my oldest two children at the time, or a failed relationship amongst other things that young single mothers go through. Things were just a mess in my life, but school was where I remained focused on getting to my goal of becoming an entrepreneur and dedicating my first business of owning a food truck, and later a restaurant, to my father. I enrolled last summer 2021 to start obtaining my business degree, focusing on small business/entrepreneurship.

My goal is beginning to get closer sooner than I expected. I graduate in May 2023, and I am so proud of myself for using my determination to keep pushing forward despite all the things that were placed in my way. The people that helped me along the way were those who truly cared about why I was on the journey to becoming the best at cooking and leaving a legacy behind for my four beautiful children.

My children are the ones that kept me going throughout both degrees. All that I do is for my kids and to help benefit them in life in all aspects. My God and Savior Jesus Christ has been the only constant that has always given me what friends and family couldn’t in this pursuit of reaching my educational goals. My favorite cousin and a few close true friends are the main ones that kept motivating me all these years, as I struggled at times to stay uplifted. Once I reach my goals, I plan on giving back to young children and teenagers in my community that have a love for food and a passion to cook by opening a mentoring center based on a culinary arts and hospitality setting.

I chose to attend TTC because it was in a great area and the tuition was more affordable than other culinary arts schools. TTC has helped me reach a good portion of my goal because of all the hands-on experience and content that I’ve learned and studied in the courses I’ve taken and will take in my last two semesters.

TTC was the right choice for me because it’s paced with your learning capabilities. The instructors genuinely care about their students and their progress, not to mention all the help centers and accessible on-campus resources. The administrators are so hands-on and very eager to help in any way they can. TTC has been a wonderful part of my education and I always recommend this college to people.

My success impacts the community because it shows how a little girl all the way from Harlem overcame so much and still was determined to prove herself functional to live life and work towards getting her goal accomplished. My community is going to benefit from my businesses and be forever changed by the diversity that I come from. I was determined to reach my goal and Trident Technical College has definitely done its job in helping me get there.