Culinary arts program comes of age
Though Eudora-De Soto Technical Education Center Culinary Arts instructor Jason Gray said this was one of the more productive years the program has had, he still wishes he could have just a little more time.
"There's so much more I wanted to do this year, and then the next thing you know, it's May," Gray said.
Gray said the program came of age this year as a result of larger enrollment numbers and more students entering competitions than have in previous years. The program also added teaching assistant Renee Mueting.
"We kind of evolved," he said. "We went from infancy to that next stage, and we've still got a ways to go."
One of the students who helped the program improve was junior Austin Abram.
Abram, who is the Eudora Schools student of the week, had not planned on taking the culinary arts class again after his sophomore year.
"I wanted to go into the military this summer, but my mom wouldn't sign for me," Abram said. "I looked more into culinary and I did better in competitions than I thought I would, so a door opened up and I'm really starting to get more involved in it now."
One organization Abram is getting more involved with is SkillsUSA, as he recently was named to a SkillsUSA state officer's position for 2008-2009 school year.
SkillsUSA is a national nonprofit organization serving teachers and high school and college students who are preparing for careers in trade, technical and skilled service occupations.
Abram wants to go to culinary school and then work at a nationally recognized hotel.
"I'd like to be a food and beverage manager and hopefully work my way up to be a general manager of a hotel," he said. "That would be ideal."
Last May, Gray talked with Abram after seeing he hadn't enrolled in the class for this year. Gray told Abram he saw potential in him and asked him to enroll again.
"I think back to last year at this time and I looked at my enrollment and he wasn't on there," Gray said. "I had a choice to call him in or not. For whatever reason, I chose to sit down with him and I'm so glad I did that.
"I saw a marked improvement in his maturity, his interest, in his skill level when he came back from summer break. He's taken ownership of his education when it comes to this program."
Abram also is thankful for Gray's instruction and input.
"He's something else," Abram said. "He's really helped teach me how to network and he said that we're always on a job interview and that everyone is always looking at you."
Gray's plate will be full next year with a new culinary arts class for eighth-graders and a high school class roster of 52 students, which is just four students away from being full.
He hopes to fine tune the program and prepare it to transition into the new technical education center that will be ready in 2010