Culinary star and student president: Keith Welch to lead Laney

May 4, 2017 2:50 PM

ASLC President-Elect Keith Welch fires up the grill to feed students as part of Laney Day, the campus-wide celebration of school spirit on May 2. Welch also serves free food on campus on Monday and Tuesday evenings.

By Hoku Gearheard-Gendre
Tower Staff Writer

Associated Students of Laney College President-Elect Keith Welch plans to put the “community” back in community college.

Welch can still smell the fried chicken his mother used to make, back home in Monroe, La. He says it could wake him from sleep. He was called a “mama’s boy” because he spent so much time in the kitchen helping her. His reward: getting to lick the bowl.

Today, you can still find Welch in the kitchen, now with his fellow culinary students.

As newly elected ASLC president, he is determined to give back to all students at Laney. Their reward: the opportunity to thrive.

Welch has a long list of things that he wants to do to improve student life at Laney and unify the school. From making sure everyone has easy (free) access to healthy food, to fighting for the students who are homeless and struggling, he is determined to make changes that will help students long after his one-year mandate is over.

“I don’t want to be a flash in the pan,” he says.

Welch is determined to give students the opportunity to thrive.

His journey has taught him the value of education, and his hope is to guide every student on their own journey to success.

Welch worked at the now closed Mingles nightclub in Jack London Square before deciding to return to school.

Welch says he learned many valuable lessons about business and entrepreneurship during his time working there, despite the unique challenges he experienced.

When a physical altercation resulted in a severe wrist injury in 2003, requiring multiple surgeries, bone marrow, and screws to repair, he was left with a disability. Even now he can only gesture minutely up and down from the injured wrist.

He spent ten years living on disability and in poverty, as he describes it. He says he was only surviving. He knew that he had to do something, or it would be too late. He could not keep restarting his life.

He says, “I didn’t want to just survive, I wanted to flourish.”

In 2013 Welch enrolled at College of Alameda (COA), taking fitness and general studies courses. He devoted himself to school. He benefited from EOPS, and with its help received mentoring and guidance.

“I’m trying to fight this battle for students who can’t fight it themselves.”

Keith Welch

Inspired by his time in the kitchen with his mother and the parties his parents used to throw, he transferred to Laney’s Culinary Arts Program a year and a half after starting at COA.

As he spent more time at the college, his hope to improve the experiences and situations of his fellow students grew.

The Culinary Arts Club came from his own experience as a first-year culinary student. “No one was there for me,” he says, “so I decided to make a change for us.” Now, since last spring, he has mentored every first-year student in Culinary Arts, through the establishment of the club.

Together with counselor Mark Yamamoto, they created education plans for culinary students to complete their studies with multiple degrees, improving their chances of better employment after graduation. He asks them: Why start at the bottom if they can start in the middle?

Welch is very aware of the obstacles many students face just to obtain an education. He hopes to create housing for homeless students at Laney. He already provides free meals to students on Mondays and Tuesdays, and wants to extend this service to Thursdays as well.

Additionally, he has many ideas on how to achieve his goal of greater student involvement and community, and also to simply reward students.
He plans to set up a suggestion box, so they can share their ideas.

Among the many things on his agenda, Welch wants to organize a Friday pep rally and cookout before home football games, create a spring concert series, produce a cooking show for Peralta TV, and create a food bank. He also helped plan Laney Day, which took place on May 2.

He said he devoted himself completely when he made the choice to return to school in 2013. It appears his devotion has not waned since then, only now his focus is the students.

“I’m trying to fight this battle for students who can’t fight it themselves.”

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