From a young age, Jhenna Adams was interested in cooking. The self-proclaimed “daddy’s girl” loved to watch her father cook on a kitchen line in his New Mexico restaurant. Those first impressions of the kitchen developed her desire to also work in the field one day.
Then, while still in high school, Jhenna’s life goals changed and with the birth of her son she soon felt the mounting responsibilities of school, work, and childcare. It was simply too much for her at the time, so Jhenna decided to put her kitchen dreams on hold to care for her family.
But she never forgot those dreams, and as her children grew older, she began the process of finishing her high school education. Jhenna called The Literacy Alliance in Fort Wayne and worked diligently for five months to complete her High School Equivalency. Melanee Neilson, a career advisor at The Literacy Alliance, knew Jhenna had potential after seeing her growth in the classroom.
“Her self-motivation was always going up a level. She took full responsibility for her studies and learned to think positive in her circumstances. She truly has come so far and continues to better herself in everything she finds herself,” says Nielson.
When Melanee found out Jhenna’s passion for cooking, she advised Jhenna to attend Ivy Tech for a formal culinary education. Jhenna was immediately impressed with the amount of help and guidance Ivy Tech provided her to get started.
“I’m not tech friendly at all, and I don’t know how many people walked me through all the steps on the internet. A college that’s willing to put that much effort just to get you to sign up is a college worth going to,” says Jhenna.
Since she started in the hospitality administration program, Jhenna has had a whirlwind of success. She says, “Before it was always just a dream, now it’s becoming reality. It’s one thing to have people tell you that you’re a good cook, but when you go to a school and your chefs praise you or you win a competition, then you really start to think ‘I have some talent’—this is more than just a dream for me.”
Jhenna has a 10-year plan that she never had before, including pursuing multiple culinary degrees and launching her own food truck. “I’m on target to get my certificate. So, the fact that I can be ‘Jhenna Adams, CC’ is really exciting to me. I never thought I’d have a title—that’s just mind-boggling.”
As she continues her coursework to an associate’s degree, Jhenna will also embark on a culinary journey to Italy and Paris in May 2022. The opportunity is the result of her success in Ivy Tech’s annual European Competition, which was held on Ivy Tech’s campus in October 2021. Jhenna says she’s “thrilled” to see the inner workings of Italian and Parisian kitchens, wineries and creameries.
“It’s a chance of a lifetime, really. And none of it would have happened if I wouldn’t have signed up for Ivy Tech.”