YouthCare’s Orion Center recently revisited an exciting program – Orion Cooks – for a special five-week cohort! This hands-on program taught clients practical life skills, job readiness, kitchen safety, and how to cook delicious meals.  

Unique, Orion’s Meal Coordinator, Aprielle Kinard, YouthCare’s Workforce Navigator, and Mary Ramirez, a Social Services Professional with King County’s Children Youth and Young Adults Division, worked together to form a curriculum based on job readiness, cooking, and kitchen skills. King County was also able to provide a $125/week stipend for the participants! 

Unique and two students cook in Orion's kitchen

“I like that it’s hands-on, and Unique is a very good teacher”

Orion Cooks Student

During the first week, clients were taught aspects of financial literacy, how to write a resume and cover letter, conduct career research, and practice with mock interviews. They also received their food handler’s card in preparation for working in the kitchen during the following weeks. 

There are many new skills clients are exposed to during their time at Orion Cooks, including making a meal on a budget, kitchen safety and organization, and how to collaborate with others.  

Among the many delicious meals this pilot cohort learned how to make, their favorite was homemade pizza! Step by step, Unique taught participants how to make the dough, slice and dice toppings, and create the perfect herb mixture to put into the sauce. It turned out amazing – the clients claimed it tasted like it was from their favorite pizza restaurant! Other recipes included lumpia, crab rangoon, and sushi rolls. 

slicing carrots on a countertop

“I always have fun when I come in – I like cooking. I like how Unique is very patient with us.”

Orion Cooks Student
pouring hot sauce onto a spoon

Unique, Mary, and Aprielle have seen this cohort’s growth, excitement, and teamwork firsthand. “Multiple clients that started were kind of nervous, but their walls slowly came down,” Unique commented. “They came out of their shells and became more talkative. It’s a space where people really get to know each other, bond, and learn at the same time. It’s beneficial in multiple ways.” Clients who aren’t even involved in the program come and hang out in the kitchen to watch what is happening, and maybe pick up a few tips and tricks.  

“Living skills are also incorporated into [Unique’s] class,” Mary said. “There’s a lot of working on a team, working together, solving problems. They’re learning job skills, life skills, and a lot of great things.”  

Clients are set up for success to continue learning after their time at Orion Cooks. Further job training at FareStart ( and the Pastry Project (  is made available for clients to apply to.  

YouthCare is so proud of this cohort’s success, teamwork, and growth. Thank you to everyone who made this special program possible! 

The next cohort starts in January – please contact if you are interested in joining or supporting the program!