Hope Services in Pasco County adds new student programs

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LAND O’ LAKES, Fla. — A Pasco County nonprofit is helping those with disabilities live independently.

Hope Services was founded more than 20 years ago but recently added a new program to its curriculum.

Last year, the nonprofit opened its very own training center to teach students life skills and offering vocational programs with training in areas like the culinary arts as well as construction and hospitality.

Executive Director Cindy Bray said they are learning everyday life skills.

“Everything in our center is centered around not only teaching them life skills but also vocational skills,” said Bray. “So they leave us learning how to live on their own and also to become employed.”

Bray said they are in the process of finishing a retail training room, which will be a big addition to their program.

The program is already helping shape students’ lives. For inside one culinary classroom, students are getting a taste of food prep.

“It’s like, ‘Oh my gosh â€” I’m doing cooking class!’” Cheyenne Stoltz, a student at Hope Services, said. “I don’t get to cook at home, so it’s a lot of fun for me.”

Stoltz has been taking classes like this for the last year, honing her culinary skills and making delicious meals, like chicken stir-fry.

“It’s fun to get to know people and have that feeling that you’re doing something good,” she said.

It’s all under the watchful eye of chef and teacher Brent Belcher, a local business owner taking time to teach these eager students.

“It’s kind of flexing a muscle that I don’t get to use on a daily basis in the kitchen,” Belcher, assistant director of Culinary Operations at Hope Services, said. “As far as like teaching and breaking things down and showing someone who is totally green to the industry, the baby steps to getting involved. That’s been very rewarding and challenging at the same time.”

“The teachers are amazing. They’re really kind and respectful,” said Stoltz. “They’ll help you out if there’s a problem and me taking this class here was amazing. It was life changing for me.”

The nonprofit provides them with the necessary life skills to live independent lives.

“These classes are changing my life and it’s a lot of fun, like I said,” Stoltz said. “I would do it again if I could.”

You can learn more about Hope Services and their available classes on their website.