Culinary Arts Scholars Display Their Many Talents

MOUNT VERNON – Scholars in culinary arts, a Career and Technical Education program at Mount Vernon High School, presented at the Board of Education meeting on Wednesday, March 15, 2023. The students cooked dinner for the trustees and a key lime parfait for dessert, and they provided everyone who attended the meeting with homemade cookies.

The presentation was a group effort, as students in the print shop helped create and design the bags for the cookies and students made CTE keychains for the Board of Education trustees.

Noel Campbell, director of CTE, also took the opportunity to highlight the entire CTE program. This program provides students with career exposure, career exploration, career engagement, and career empowerment. They also have partnered with Westchester Community College, Rockland Community College, Iona University, Universal Technical University and Monroe College to supply even more expertise and resources to the students. Teachers in the department are certified, but they also have worked in or own businesses in the fields that they teach.

Scholars in culinary arts, a Career and Technical Education program at Mount Vernon High School, presented at the Board of Education meeting.
Scholars in culinary arts, a Career and Technical Education program at Mount Vernon High School, presented at the Board of Education meeting.

CTE also provides students with community-based partnerships. This allows them to obtain jobs and internships from businesses such as Arts Westchester, the Westchester Parks Foundation and Ashley’s Sweet Treats.

Three CTE programs have been approved by New York State in the past year: Automotive Technology, Graphic Arts Design and the Nursing Assistant Training Program. MVHS now has four approved career pathways, since culinary arts was the only approved pathway since 2002. The district is planning to expand their certified career pathways to barbering, cosmetology, and cybersecurity programs in 2024.

“Culinary is really a multisensory, interdisciplinary subject,” said Samantha Cohen, culinary arts teacher at MVHS. “There’s math when we are costing recipes and converting formulas. There’s English when students are writing menus and writing resumes. There’s science when they’re learning about caramelization and what sous vide is. There’s history and culture when we introduce new ingredients and foods from a variety of countries in our cooking. And there’s art when I let my students be creative in their dishes.”

In the past few years, the culinary arts program has grown from a small science lab in 2019, to their very own kitchen. The culinary arts program currently has 67 students enrolled, and it is always one of the most popular programs when students register for classes.

“It’s not just cooking,” said Sajay Mullings, a senior at MVHS who was recently accepted into the Culinary Institute of America. “We also learn real life stuff. Cooking is a lot of people’s love language. It’s how they show love. People come from different cultures and different backgrounds. For me, being able to cook, I can more easily communicate with people.”

Dr. Pauline Pearce, principal at MVHS, envisions students owning their own businesses, rather than just working in their fields. She encourages students to take rigorous courses like the International Baccalaureate Programme (IB) while enrolled in CTE.

“Why should students choose between science and art, when they can do it together here at the New Mount Vernon High School,” said Dr. Pearce. “We offer a comprehensive educational experience. Sade doesn’t have to choose between taking the most rigorous courses that exist in high school, for example IB, and going after her passion.”

Culinary students have numerous opportunities for internships and networking, and their presentation at the Board of Education meeting was another way to get work experience and showcase their talents. The Board of Education Trustees were impressed with the food and wanted them to come back for future meetings. Working at district events gives these students a chance to get real-life experience in catering, cooking, and other aspects of culinary careers while being recognized for their good work.

“Being in the culinary program has exposed me to real workplace experience, and I even get to engage in my community,” said Sade Logue, an 11th-grade grade student at MVHS. “I’ve had opportunities to volunteer for events like the Kids in the Kitchen, and the Spanish and Latino Heritage event at my school.”

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