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Sekou Siby is no stranger to adversity. Growing up in Ivory Coast, he was trained and worked as a schoolteacher, until political unrest forced him to seek asylum in the U.S. Unable to find work as a teacher here, he eventually found his way to restaurant work and a job at Windows on the World, located on the top two floors of the World Trade Center.
On that terrible day in September 2001, he lost 73 friends and coworkers, along with his job.
He began volunteering at ROC, utilizing his teaching skills to help train his fellow restaurant workers. When Sekou became the Executive Director of ROC, he worked to get the organization in shape to apply for funding from Robin Hood. Sekou saw this as both a stamp of approval and a big hand up. His relationship with Robin Hood staff taught him how to be a manager and to help participants make the transition from completing a training program to landing a good job.
Today, Sekou is married with two children and is the Deputy Director of ROC United.
Restaurant Opportunity Center
In 2001, when the Twin Towers were destroyed and Lower Manhattan was cordoned off, 13,000 restaurant workers lost their jobs. This highlighted the extent to which the food industry depended on immigrant laborers, many of whom were undocumented and working “off the books.”
As time passed, unemployed restaurant workers came together to support one another and use their skills to train each other to get even better jobs. Their group would eventually become the Restaurant Opportunity Center.
Robin Hood has provided guidance and grants to help the organization thrive.
Since its humble beginnings in 2001, ROC affiliates have opened in cities across the country, including Chicago, Houston, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Miami, Detroit, New Orleans, San Francisco and Washington, D.C.
Today, ROC is improving working conditions for thousands of the nation’s low-wage restaurant workforce. ROC’s success is proof that something positive and uplifting can arise out of even the most terrible of events.