SOWELA is First College in Louisiana to Award an Online Culinary Arts Associate of Applied Science Degree

College to Hold Fall 2023 Commencement Ceremony on Thursday, December 14

(Lake Charles, Louisiana – December 7, 2023)

SOWELA Technical Community College is the first college in Louisiana to award an Online Culinary Arts Associate of Applied Science degree. Julio Santana of Ossining, New York, will graduate with distinction from the 4-semester program, accredited through SACSCOC and the American Culinary Federation.

“I’m an adult student with a master’s degree in education and decided to change careers later in life,” said Santana. “I currently work in the hospitality industry at FLIK Hospitality Group and needed a degree to help myself move up with my current employer. Time and finances were major factors in deciding where to go.”

After reviewing the list of accredited schools on the American Culinary Federation’s website, he came across SOWELA’s program. “What appealed to me about the program is that I would have a college degree for less money than the other schools on the list, and it is more flexible with a similar program structure to other high-ranking culinary programs.”

Looking back over his experience, he shares, “It’s been everything I could have hoped for—classes help fill in gaps with my industry experience. Instructors did so many video conferences and calls to help me with my questions. It’s a perfect program for adults whether in the hospitality industry or not.”

For the short-term, Santana’s goal is to become a chef, but ultimately, his ideal job is director of food and beverage, which requires front and back-of-house knowledge. When asked what he would say to someone hesitant about an online culinary program, Santana said, “The old way of learning has changed. If you can replicate the learning environment away from the classroom, you can get all the knowledge you need.”

SOWELA marks its 58th Commencement ceremony on Thursday, December 14. Commencement begins at 6:30 PM in the Lake Charles Event Center, with about 320 students eligible to graduate and receive degrees for Fall 2023.

AT&T Louisiana State President of External and Legislative Affairs David Aubrey will speak at Commencement. Aubrey made history when, at the age of 24, he was elected the first African American mayor of his hometown of Homer, Louisiana, making him the state’s youngest mayor. He is also an At-Large Member of the Louisiana Board of Regents.

SOWELA’s graduation ceremony is open to the public. For information about Commencement, contact SOWELA at (337) 421-6550 or email

About SOWELA Technical Community College

SOWELA Technical Community College provides traditional, distance, and lifelong learning experiences and awards associate degrees, technical diplomas, and certificates. The College empowers learners in career and technical education and enables transfer students to pursue a four-year degree, so all learners excel as globally competitive citizens. The College has been educating the region’s workforce for 85 years.

3820 Senator J. Bennett Johnston Avenue
Lake Charles, Louisiana 70615
(337) 421-6565
(800) 256-0483

Mon-Thu: 7:45 AM to 4:15 PM
Friday: 7:45 AM to 12:00 PM
(337) 421-6550

SOWELA Technical Community College does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national origin, gender, disability, or age in its programs and activities. The following person(s) have been designated to handle inquiries regarding non-discrimination policies:

Title IX Officer

Candy Parker

(337) 421-6510 or (800) 256-0483

3820 Sen. J. Bennett Johnston Ave. Lake Charles, LA 70615

ADA Officer

Maegan Lewis

(337) 421-6952 or (800) 256-0483

3850 Sen. J. Bennett Johnston Ave. Lake Charles, LA 70615

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