Graduating to a better life
December 07, 2016
When Ashley Powell started at Cuyahoga Community College in 2011, he had a wife and two children, a small apartment, and a lot of hopes and dreams.
He started a cleaning company in 2009, but he was having trouble getting his business off the ground. And deep down, he knew his true passion was cooking.
“I’ve worked in restaurants since I was 16, basically my whole entire life,” Powell said. “I love to cook, nothing makes me happier than cooking. I knew that was my goal in life. Some people don’t have their thing that they’ve found yet, but I always knew I wanted to be a chef. I get so much joy out of cooking. I love when people eat my food and smile. This is my calling.”
He and his wife talked and decided they would take a chance on a culinary arts degree. Powell enrolled in the Tri-C Culinary Arts program, and not only did it work out -- it changed their lives.
“When I started here, I didn’t know how to run a business,” Powell said. “In my classes at Tri-C, I learned so much. How to save money, how to run the business better, and everything I learned I put into the business. It’s grown so much, and I have employees now.”
Despite working 60-hour weeks trying to balance work, family and classes, Powell says, “This whole experience, the nights when I stayed up all night, it was all worth it.”
When Powell graduates this month with his associate's degree in culinary arts, it will be the first time he’s ever graduated.
“I didn’t even graduate from kindergarten. I got my GED,” he quipped. “I’m definitely going to crack at commencement, knowing my wife can finally see me graduate. This is the greatest experience of my life.”
After graduation Powell plans to continue to build his cleaning company, but save up to open his own restaurant, starting with a catering business. “I’m going to save all money for the restaurant,” he said. “Keep building and building until I get my restaurant.
“I worked this hard, and now I’m almost done, but I know once it’s done I’ll be sad. I’m sad because I met so many great people at Tri-C, and now my time here is ending. It’s almost surreal. I went to school, and it worked out. We have three kids now, we live in a gorgeous house, have a great life, and it’s all because of Tri-C. It changed my life. I’m a much better business man, and a better man all around, because of Tri-C.”