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Louis Valchez has turned his life around. When he was younger, Louis was on a bad path. He could have ended up in jail, or even worse, dead. Instead, the now 25-year-old is a graduate of Philabundance’s culinary training program, Philabundance Community Kitchen (PCK).

Louis struggled growing up in Northeast Philadelphia. He was making decisions that were hurting his future. “I wasn’t really obeying all the laws, I wasn’t going to school; I never graduated high school,” Louis admits. “I wasn’t hanging out with the right crowd.”

Louis knew he had to change his life when his best friend since childhood was shot. “Seeing him in the ICU made me realize that this isn’t the lifestyle that I wanted to have.” His mother told him about Philabundance Community Kitchen, and Louis decided to enroll. He knew it was time to turn over a new leaf, to do something for himself and for his family. This wasn’t something he was just going to try out, this time, he was determined to graduate.

And that is exactly what he did. With the support of his family and his instructors at PCK, Louis gained culinary and also life skills. He learned that success happens when preparation meets opportunity, and he is making sure he is prepared for any opportunities the future may bring. Already, the young chef is doing research on opening his own food truck with the dream of it one day launching into his very own restaurant.

Though Louis’s time at PCK is over, he doesn’t see his graduation as the end. “This is the beginning for me. I see 2013 as my breakthrough year.”