Young man, newly diagnosed, finds career in the culinary arts

Arielle Weekes photo

Ft. Lauderdale, FL - Arielle Weekes was born in St. Thomas, British Virgin Islands and moved to south Florida with his family in 2000. He always kept to himself and many people just thought he was shy. After Arielle left school in the ninth grade, a close family friend he met at church suggested he try Vocational Rehabilitation (VR). She became his advocate to help him through the process.

Arielle applied for VR services in Ft. Lauderdale and started working with VR Counselor Jane Haughian. After Jane retired, VR Consultant Rick Burkett took over Arielle’s case. Jane provided psychological and vocational evaluations for Arielle. He was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome.

Arielle was very open-minded about what type of work he wanted to do. His vocational evaluation suggested a job in the culinary arts, but Arielle really wanted to work in the IT field. After talking it over with Jane and realizing that cooking was his second choice, he decided to attend the culinary arts program at ARC Broward County.

Arielle graduated in January 2014 and was named “Student of the Year.” He was recently invited to represent the ARC at a cooking competition among culinary schools in the area. “I am honored and excited about the opportunity to represent the ARC,” he said.

Since graduation, Arielle works full time at the Ale House, lives in his own apartment, and is becoming more comfortable around strangers and large groups. He also plans to work toward his associate’s degree in culinary arts. With his training at the ARC, he already has 27 credit hours toward his degree.

“VR is a great program. You guys have helped me with school and helped me find a job,” Arielle said. “I feel like I have accomplished a lot.”

About Vocational Rehabilitation
Florida’s Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) is a federal-state program committed to helping people with disabilities become part of America’s workforce. Our employer-focused website,, allows businesses to search at no charge for employees who are ready to go to work, as well as to post available jobs. VR has 89 offices across Florida, and last year helped 7,214 Floridians with significant disabilities find or keep a job. For more information about VR and its services, call (800) 451-4327 or visit