Celebrity chef Jeff Henderson says he regrets his former way of life, and by speaking to the younger generation, it gives him the chance to rights some wrongs. Henderson, who spent 10 years in prison, is now an executive chef at the Bellagio, a luxury resort and casino in Las Vegas.
“I made a lot of poor choices in my life, I helped influence a generation of young boys who have embraced drug dealing and urban hip-hop culture,” Henderson said. “I feel guilty about my own success, and feel the need to come back and pay it forward.”
Henderson spoke to over 200 middle and high school students at the BeABoss Summit held at EdVenture Children’s Museum.
“I see the generations of poverty,” Henderson said. “That’s why this BeABoss program is so important. It gives these kids a chance to be exposed to potential employers and university officials.”
Henderson says his message is about finding your gift and embracing education.
“We want to teach these kids to be winners in life,” Henderson said. “Help break the cycle in their family and community. This is a program where all kids win.”
Kids were given a chance to meet with community and business leaders as well as take part in interactive breakout sessions. The event gave students the chance to learn the necessary skills needed for future success.
“We want to make sure (the students) know the opportunities out there, the different paths they can take,” EdVenture Executive Vice President Nikki Williams said. “We also have to get them to understand who they are as a person. We focus on some tough topics when we do the breakout sessions.”
One of the sponsors for the event was Colonial Life, and president and CEO Tim Arnold gave the opening message and words of encouragement to the attendees.
“Colonial Life focuses its community nonprofit support in three areas, education, health and the arts. We really believe strongly in education,” Arnold said. “We believe investing in this can really help the children to become future leaders.”
Williams said it is a challenge to find funders in the youth development efforts, especially younger groups or middle school age kids.
“Colonial Life sponsors our youth development and is also a sponsor for the summit,” Williams said. “They realize it is an investment in the future workforce, but when you see all of these people come together, you know they are doing it from the heart.”