As a graduate of Virginia Commonwealth University, and a mom with a full-time job and two small children at home, Rachel Carver wasn’t thinking about furthering her education. But then she received some mail from Howard Community College (HCC).
“It was a book with a list of classes,” she says. “There was a chef on the front and I think she was a Black girl. I was like, ‘Wow, they have a culinary program?’”
Carver had visited HCC once as a health care worker for a corporate wellness event. “I saw the campus and thought it was beautiful,” she says. “I wasn’t looking to go to college or anything like that. But when I saw the book, I remembered how pretty the campus was and I thought it was worth a shot.”
Carver already knew how to bake and often did so for family and friends. She was mainly interested in the cake decorating class. But upon learning that taking the single class wasn’t an option, she enrolled in the culinary program; she’s on pace to earn an associate degree in Culinary Management with a certificate in baking and pastries.
Her first class was in culinary basics, a hands-on lab “that was more fun than work because I was actually interested in it.” That was a far cry from her attitude toward some non-culinary courses – like accounting – which weren’t nearly as fun.
“I’ve never been a math person and it was really intimidating,” Carver says. “I didn’t have the most positive outlook when I started, but the teacher told me about campus tutors. I got a tutor and everything was fine. I got an ‘A’ and was really surprised. The tutor helped a lot.”
The financial support was tremendous, too. Carver received the BIC Educational Foundation scholarship for students in HCC’s Center for Hospitality and Culinary Studies. She also participated in HCC’s Career Links program for single parents, which led her to a scholarship from the Business Women’s Network of Howard County.
“This has been a really good experience and I’m kind of sad that my journey is ending,” Carver says. “I’ve had a lot of support and I learned a lot.”