Tanika DePena came to UPO as a young mother looking for a fresh start. She wanted to move from low-paying, inconsistent work to a job with a career path and advancement! Having a love for cooking, a friend told her about UPO’s Culinary Arts training program and she quickly enrolled! She never imagined that she could get paid for something she enjoyed!

Bright-eyed and super excited, she spent the next 12 weeks learning about the proper preparation, storage and serving techniques for different food types! Upon program completion, she earned the nationally recognized ServSafe Food Handler certificate awarded by the National Restaurant Association and gained hands-on commercial kitchen experience from UPO’s “Top Chef” Jerald Thomas!

Tanika will now be using her skills at the new MGM Grand Casino, opening at the National Harbor this weekend!! The venue boasts five traditional-style restaurants and a food hall serving everything from tacos to sushi! Working under the guidance of world-renowned chefs like Jose Andres and the nationally-acclaimed Voltaggio Brothers, she is sure to learn new skills and continue moving toward success in her new career! She is already moving into the spotlight, as she was featured on FOX 5 DC during a sneak peek earlier this week!


We are proud of Tanika and her upward movement to employment! She’ll forever be a part of the UPO family because we wrap our arms around our customers and are with them every step of the way! #SheIsUPO #MoveToEmployment