Tampa, Florida - A program designed to give people with disabilities hope and independence graduates another class today.
The program, called "Hands On Education", has graduated more than 1,200 students since it started in 1998. Students spend two weeks and 100 hours getting culinary experience at the Grand Hyatt Tampa Bay. When students graduate, they receive a Certificate of Completion signed by the executive chef and general manager of the Hyatt. Students also receive a Florida Food Handlers Certification, preparing them to work in a restaurant.
Richard Sabb, 63, graduated from Hands On Education in 1999. Two years earlier, a blood clot in his spine left him paralyzed at the age of 48. Sabb says depression set in and, one day, he realized he needed to do something with his life. Sabb says Hands On Education gave him hope and a purpose. He owes his success to a positive attitude and never saying "I can't" but "I can try."
Sabb has been working at the Grand Hyatt since he graduated. He uses a standup wheelchair to get around in the kitchen. He also mentors students going through the program, students such as Othedus "Theo" Harvin from Bartow. Othedus says he was paralyzed four years ago after doctors removed a tumor from his spine. The father of four says Hands On Education has given him a new life. He says Richard has taught him a positive attitude will keep him moving forward.
On April 28th, Sabb will travel to Boston to receive a national award as Employee of the Year from the magazine "Careers and the disAble."
Hands On Education is a collaboration between the Grand Hyatt Tampa Bay and Florida's Division of Vocational Rehabilitation and Division of Blind Services.
The program has expanded to include eight Hyatt Hotels in Florida (Tampa, Orlando, and Miami), nine Hyatts in Texas and three in Washington DC.