Cooking. For some an apron, chopping board and the sizzle of food hitting a hot pan is nothing more than a chore necessitated by the need to eat. For others, like Limestone’s social work student, Zaviah Wray, cooking is a lifelong passion closely intertwined with her path to social work.
Zaviah’s love for cooking began as far back as she can remember preparing family meals with her parents and grandmother. However, the choice to pursue cooking as a career came with the help and encouragement of a social worker. When Zaviah and her family suffered a loss of her father back in 2009 it was the hospital’s social worker that offered a listening ear to Zaviah.
“She asked me about what I like to do and I talked about cooking with my father. She encouraged me to do what I love and said that it can help me heal.”
So when Zaviah enrolled in the Culinary Arts Program at the Art Institute of Charlotte, she had no idea it would ultimately help her find her way to social work.
“I went there to cook but ended up helping people,” recalls Zaviah.
She quickly became the go-to-person for her classmates whenever they needed to talk to someone. One time, a young classmate came to Zaviah and admitted to feeling suicidal. Recognizing the seriousness of the situation, Zaviah not only took the time to talk to her but also drove the woman to a local crisis center where she was able to get help and eventually get better.
Experiences like these showed Zaviah she was meant to play a bigger role in people’s lives and that she was capable of doing it. She recounted this and other similar experiences to her grandmother — a church missionary herself — who encouraged her to pursue social work after she graduates from her culinary program. Zaviah took her advice.
Zaviah chose Limestone’s Social Work program after researching the school and gathering information from her friends and family who had gone there, including her son. Limestone’s evening and extended campus program was also a good fit for her busy schedule.
Today, a wife, mother and a proud owner of a small catering business, she juggles raising five children with studying for her social work program classes at Limestone. Now in her second year of studies, she was most surprised by Limestone’s small class size and the amount of personalized attention she receives from her professors on an ongoing basis.
Her favorite course thus far is SW205 Human Behavior and Social Environment.
“This class helped me learn a lot about myself, why I am the person that I am and why I do the things that I do. And I think that’s very important. You can’t help anyone else, if you don’t truly understand yourself,” says Zaviah.
After graduating, Zaviah dreams of running a wellness center for women and children who’ve suffered domestic violence. Even so, she sees cooking in her future as she imagines her center offering cooking classes among other vocational and empowerment programs.
When asked what she likes making the most, Zaviah takes a moment to think and says, “red velvet cupcakes.” If not for their deliciousness, this choice may have something to do with the fact that they are also one of the most popular items on Zaviah’s catering menu. However, business aside, Zaviah explains that the reds and the whites of this tasty treat somehow remind her of Christmas, a time when everyone is more giving and compassionate.