by Jennifer Sierra
The teenagers in Dayton and Bellevue are cooking up a storm thanks to a program funded and organized by the local YMCA and cafeteria manager at Bellevue High School, Becka Bess. Molly Russell and Jami Gordon are the site coordinators for programs like these that help the kids develop their interests in extracurricular activities that might further their careers.
They have had up to 30 kids in the cooking class at once but this year they have about 8 from Bellevue and 4 from Dayton. Site Coordinator, Molly Russell said that this was a great way to break down the competitive barrier between Bellevue and Dayton. “The kids forget the city boundary and really come together. They make new friends they wouldn’t normally get to come in contact with outside of competitive sports.”
This program has only had funding for the last 3 of the 6 years it has been in existence. Becka Bess and her staff paid for the supplies for the cooking class for the first few years. The students work with Becky once every week during the school year. Cooking is only one of the things they learn in this class. Teamwork is a big part of the class as well as sanitizing a kitchen properly and food safety skills. The very first thing Becka teaches them is a knife safety course. This year the students made cookie mixes for Christmas gifts. They assembled dry ingredients and recipes and placed everything in jars. They also learned how to do practical things like use Thanksgiving leftovers to create new and exciting recipes. Becky Bess’ philosophy in class is “everyone has to handle and try the food we make it even if they don’t like it.”
On the night we visited Bellevue High School, the cooking club was making a Mexican dinner which was free to anyone that wanted to come. Students from both Dayton and Bellevue High Schools participate in this group., Tori Brockman, a 9th grader from Dayton, told us that it has been her lifelong dream to be a chef, specifically a pastry chef and own her own bakery. Kids with dreams like these are hopefully going to be the ones to fill up some of the business space in Dayton’s Central Business District or work at some of our local restaurants.
The meals the kids make are served to the public once a month during the school year. This night was their last class for the year and Becka and her staff presented the kids with 5 cookbooks each as an end-of-year gift. They had collected the cookbooks from donations on Facebook.
This club is only offered during the school year and next year will include students starting in the 6th grade. They are always looking for people to volunteer their time and help with this and other programs such as the songwriters club. Volunteer, Sara Habel found out about the program on Facebook and volunteered for the cooking class even though she has no kids in the Bellevue or Dayton School system. If you or anyone you know is interested in volunteering for these programs, please contact Molly Russell the 21st Century CLC Program Coordinator (859) 261-2980 x650. The site coordinator for Dayton High School is Jami Gordon. Her email is: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Watch a video clip here: