KITCHEN / GARDEN TEAM
LASHON BURRELL - CHEF / KITCHEN & FOOD PROGRAM MANAGER
Hello! My name is Lashon Burrell and I am extremely excited to be a part of the team at Little Inspirations. In 2009, I moved to Chicago from East St. Louis and received my Bachelor's Degree in Culinary Arts from Robert Morris University. After obtaining my degree, I worked in the culinary industry for 5 years and then decided to further my education. I received my Master's Degree in Business Administration from the University of Phoenix. I am very passionate about food and health and I love to try new things and share my experiences with others around me. When I am not in the kitchen, I enjoy sports, music, art and traveling the world.
DEANNA JOINER - COOK / KITCHEN ASSISTANT
Hi! My name is DeAnna Joiner, and I’m excited to be a part of the Little Inspirations team. I am currently the Prep Cook/Kitchen Assistant. I have an Associates in Applied Science in Culinary Arts and I also have a degree in Massage Therapy. I have over 10 years of cooking and hospitality experience. As of recent, I have been developing a love of working with children. I have always had an urge to work with Special Needs children to assist with their interpersonal, development and motor skills. I find this opportunity to be able to prepare meals for the kids at Little Inspirations is a blessing. It allows me to not only help create delicious and healthy foods that accommodate all of the children at the Center, but it also gives me the opportunity to build relationships with the teachers and children in the hope that I can receive better insight into their interpersonal and development skills. As a parent, I have learned that raising children comes with patience and understanding, and I am willing to learn about the importance of creating experiences that last for a lifetime because the children are such a joy to be around. In my spare time, I enjoy spending time with my daughter and family, listening to music, working out and traveling.
KIRSTEN AKRE - GARDEN MANAGER / NATURE PLAY COORDINATOR
Over the past 20 years, I have developed public gardens to connect people of all ages to growing organic food and to the abundant web of life that supports these gardens. As Garden Manager at Little Inspirations, I seek to connect students to nature and the food we eat. The garden is central to our program, but only one part of our play. We grow, water, pick, smell, taste, feel, and explore the garden and our natural play spaces through hands-on student-initiated activities and art.
We tend our worms and use their castings to fertilize our garden. We plant flowers and herbs for butterflies and bring a few caterpillars inside to witness the transformation from caterpillar, chrysalis, to butterfly, and then let them go. We search and observe squirrels, rabbits, insects, birds, and the wildlife in our garden. We play with mud, sand, and play dough. We pretend to cook in our outdoor kitchen. We make music, read stories, and build towers, bridges, and go wherever their imagination takes us. This is Nature Play. This is my goal, my challenge, and my passion.