"I feel like I wouldn't be the person I am today without the Club," BGCC alum Krystal Lewis said.
From cooking classes to community service programs like Keystone Club to leadership programs like Youth of the Year, Lewis said a lot of her experience at the Club helped her to become what she is today: The head chef at a New York City restaurant.
Lewis was promoted to head chef at Wolf Restaurant earlier this year after working her way up the ladder the past decade in New York City restaurants.
"I would say that coming from the neighborhood I came from, the Club was just a positive bright spot in my life," Lewis said, who attended the Linda and Bill Gantz Boys & Girls Club, formerly known as the Cotter Boys & Girls Club.
"I knew I would have fun, that I'd be safe, that I'd learn new things. It just offered a safe space for me."
Lewis started as a Club member when she was just 5 years old, attending all the way up to when she graduated high school. After winning the coveted title of Boys & Girls Clubs of Chicago Youth of the Year, Krystal went on to compete and win at the Illinois state and Midwest regional levels. She was also a BGCC Woman's Board scholarship recipient.
"I think (the scholarship) gave me not only a way to get through college, but also it gave me confidence as a woman in this industry. Seeing so many powerful women (on the Board) who are so successful," Lewis said. "It gave me confidence in an industry that’s dominated by men."
Lewis is now not only a chef but managing the restaurant, hiring and training employees, and managing food and labor costs. She credits the Club for helping her develop the skills she needs for this position.
“Especially the mentors there gave me a lot of confidence," Lewis said. “I participated in Youth of the Year, and did a lot of public speaking engagements. ... That’s what improved my ability to speak to others, because that’s a big part of my job now.
“It absolutely helped me with my interpersonal skills, with how I can speak to people not only charismatically with courtesy and respect.”
Lewis still dreams of opening her own restaurant someday, but for now, she’s excited for her next adventure as a head chef.