Watching Edgar Castaneda-Fuentes become the first recipient of Kahiki’s Golden Cat employee recognition award, you can easily see how far his determination and hard work have taken him.
Born and raised in El Salvador, Edgar came to the U.S. to make a better life for his family. “When I found out I was going to be a father, I knew I needed to do more to support my family – the opportunities in my home country were very limited.” he says. “My family in El Salvador taught me the fundamentals of hard work, the value of education and most importantly the bond of family. I didn’t know much English when I arrived, so I taught myself by reading and watching television.”
After working various odd jobs, Edgar landing a position at Kahiki, where his uncle worked. Kahiki specializes in creating and distributing high-quality Asian frozen food. “I started out at the lowest job on the line, and worked my way up to supervisor,” says Edgar. “After a few years, I decided I really wanted a new challenge and asked to move into the maintenance department.” The Maintenance Supervisor, Kyle Downey, welcomed Edgar to the team.
Although it meant changing departments, Edgar knew that the training he would get would lead to more opportunity in the future. Kahiki has a strong commitment to developing their people and promoting from within, and Edgar has already earned three promotions since he joined the maintenance department.
A former Columbus State student himself, Kyle is quick to compliment Edgar’s abilities and work ethic. “He’s really a superstar around here. The first step for anyone new to our department is to go to Columbus State for training and enter our apprenticeship program. The program was set up for 2-3 years to get through the apprenticeship, but it only took Edgar about a year.
As a partner with Columbus State, Kahiki has a customized workforce program for maintenance training. Edgar has progressed through courses in mechanical, electrical and pneumatic systems. “My classes at Columbus State help me in every aspect of my job,” he says “There have been so many times when I go to look at a system here for the first time and think ‘Oh, I’ve seen this before in class!’”
Kahiki Engineering & Maintenance Manager Christopher Sarka echoes the praise for Edgar. “We recently created the Golden Cat award to recognize employees who go above and beyond and embody the Kahiki values of integrity, teamwork, ingenuity and excellence. Edgar is the perfect person to be the first award recipient.”
Edgar beams with pride as he tells you that his son starts college this year. “People talk about the American dream, and that’s exactly what it’s been for me. The education and opportunities that I have had gave me the means to support my family and assure that my son will also have a better life, which is what every parent hopes for."