“I have mango, passion fruit, Japanese plum and sugar apple trees on my property. I’m from a family of cooks.”
This is the response that PVA member and U.S. Air Force Veteran Juan Carabello gave Veterans Career Program Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor Genia Hachenberg, M.S., CRC, when she asked him about his background, including family, hobbies, work, and other relevant details.
PVA’s Veterans Career Program staff are not just here to help a Veteran find a job, but to help them find a fulfilling career – a path that will be rewarding and engaging. Juan told Genia about his struggles after losing his wife to breast cancer and being diagnosed with MS. “My past started raining down on me and I became very depressed,” he said. Juan had previously applied to Chapter 31, the Department of Veterans Affairs Veteran Readiness and Employment (VR&E) program, but they did not find him feasible to pursue training and employment in cooking due to his physical barriers.
As Juan and Genia continued to explore options, he explained how he loved to cook for everyone in his community – Veterans, those with disabilities and people recovering from an illness. He felt he wanted to learn and do more with this passion. Genia suggested working for catering businesses that delivered fresh, prepared dishes to customers. He loved the idea of starting a business like this that he could do from his home.
Juan ultimately decided that he would like to pursue a one-year diploma program in Culinary Arts at Lake Technical College in Tampa, FL. Genia assisted Juan in requesting an administrative review of the VA VR&E determination. While this review is ongoing, Genia and Juan explored alternative financial aid and also discussed accommodations he may need for his disability. Juan chose to participate in a payment plan with Lake Technical College where he is currently enrolled. Genia and Juan continue to work together on options for the next step in pursuing his culinary dream.