Alumna Makes Room for Others at Her Table
“I have a really good family,” Adriana Prado Figueroa smiles. “My mom and I are close, and we get together on the weekends with our kids.” Adriana discusses her tight-knit family as she sits in the restaurant they own. Cha Cha Chicken is vibrant and warm, much like Adriana’s relationship with her family.
Yet Adriana hasn’t always been close to them. Strained relationships with her parents and siblings led her to Girls Republic in 2001. At Girls Republic, Adriana wanted to emancipate from her family, but staff convinced her to work through her problems instead. “I owe so much to my counselors Kris and Wanda for talking me out of emancipating. I always admired how they talked openly and honestly with students, our parents, and our teachers,” Adriana confides.
Through her staff’s example and daily practice, Adriana noticed that her attitudes towards her family started to shift. She points to daily group counseling and weekly family meetings as a means of this change. Adriana learned how to communicate with her family and Girls Republic students in group counseling. “I realized that you can overcome any obstacle through effective communication,” Adriana explains. “Through group, I learned how to stand up for myself, stop fighting over small disagreements, and have confidence voicing my opinions.”
As Adriana continued to talk through problems with family, she found they were critical in her transition from Girls Republic to the community. Adriana wanted to be independent when she graduated in 2002. After she enrolled in college and started working full time, Adriana struggled to make rent. “When I asked my mom for help, she reminded me that independence also means financial independence,” Adriana reveals. “It was definitely tough love, but I learned adult lessons because my mom wouldn’t bail me out of difficult situations.” Adriana chose work over school, and she says her decision made her understand and appreciate her mom’s hard work to support herself and her family.
Adriana’s parents introduced lessons of self-reliance and hard work to her early on. Before Girls Republic, Adriana learned that if she wanted something, she would have to work for it. “If I needed money to buy shoes I would have to peel buckets of potatoes, which I didn’t like at the time,” Adriana laughs. When her family opened the first Cha Cha Chicken location in 1996, Adriana recalls how she, her parents, and her siblings worked together to prepare the restaurant for its grand opening. Each family member worked on different art projects like painting murals on the walls, building tables by hand, and creating centerpieces for each booth.
At the time, Adriana didn’t want to go into the family business. Now, she chooses to manage Cha Cha Chicken in Northridge. Adriana is in charge of the Caribbean Latin fusion restaurant. Her responsibilities include bookkeeping, payroll, scheduling, and training new staff. Since the restaurant is currently understaffed, Adriana also waits tables. The industrious graduate appreciates the challenges and rewards of managing the restaurant. “A family-owned business is different than a corporate chain,” Adriana declares. “You can call the corporate office to report issues at a chain, but you have to problem solve yourself at a family-owned business.” Even on her busiest days, though, Adriana says she is blessed with her job.
Adriana shares her gratitude with the local community. She serves the community by donating restaurant gift certificates to fund-raisers and encouraging Cha Cha Chicken staff to volunteer with her at local events. In her limited free time, Adriana helps in the Parent Center at her twin boys’ school and volunteers on the P.T.A.
Adriana appreciates the dedication needed to be responsible, fulfilled, and raise a family like her mother did. Eventually, Adriana plans to return to school to study business and accounting. “I want to learn more about what I already do and refine my knowledge and skills,” she says. She and her husband would also like to have a third child. What’s for certain for Adriana, who considers herself lucky to have an amazing family, is that she “will never turn my back on them.” Whether the ambitious graduate continues to manage the restaurant, goes back to school, or even opens up her own business with her husband and children, Adriana will undoubtedly continue to serve her family and the community.