Celebrity chef Rachael Ray and the ProStart program will give aspiring cooks and restauranteurs a chance to train for culinary careers in high school.
The South Dakota Retailers Association announced Rapid City Central High School is one of 38 schools nationwide that will receive a $5,000 grant from The Rachael Ray Foundation for the school’s ProStart program.
The Rachael Ray Foundation ProStart Grow Grants and the National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation provided the 38 grants, totaling $225,000, to ProStart schools that have demonstrated a strong need to engage and educate high school students who are interested in restaurant and food service jobs.
ProStart is a nationwide, two-year program for high school students that develops future restaurant and hospitality industry leaders.
In South Dakota, ProStart is a joint effort of the South Dakota Department of Education, the South Dakota Retailers Association and the South Dakota ProStart Advisory Committee. Funding from The Rachael Ray Foundation ProStart Grow Grants will prepare the Rapid City Central High School ProStart program to begin offering culinary arts and restaurant management courses, according to a press release from the South Dakota Retailers Association.
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Information from Rapid City Area Schools about specifically how the money will be used is not yet available because the district is still completing the approval process to receive the grant funds.
The ProStart curriculum was developed more than 15 years ago to teach students in high school about culinary arts and restaurant management and to inspire interest in food service professions, according to Seanna Regynski, the South Dakota ProStart Coordinator with the South Dakota Retailers Association.
“In the past few years, you can see an increase of everybody needing employees. The National Restaurant Association created (ProStart). They saw that need of those types of industry positions and people to fill them. They created a curriculum to spark that interest at an earlier age (in hopes that) students enjoy it so much they decide to work in a restaurant post-high school,” Regynski said. “I think there’s a lot of success in finding students are interested in the culinary field after taking the program.”
The ProStart curriculum is taught in 17 schools throughout South Dakota, and it is being introduced this upcoming school year at Rapid City Stevens and Central High Schools, Regynski said. Central High School applied for and was selected to receive a grant from The Rachael Ray Foundation. Mobridge High School is the only other school in South Dakota to receive a ProStart Grow Grant.
The South Dakota Retailers Association press release said Central High School will receive an upgrade to its classroom to prepare students to work with industry-specific equipment.
“I believe Central will be using those grant funds to start their program – things like curriculum and buying equipment. A lot of schools will put in industry-specific kitchens for students to use so when they go to post-secondary school or into the work force in restaurants, they’re familiar with that equipment,” Regynski said.
“They learn safety and sanitation, management skills, knife skills and how to take care of their equipment,” she said. “The curriculum is basically what students would learn in post-secondary school, so they’re learning it at a high school level. … It’s a program we are passionate about as far as how we facilitate the program for students in South Dakota and provide those opportunities for exploration of that industry, and it’s just something we’re really proud of.”
Ray is the Emmy-winning host of “Rachael Ray Show,” now in its 16th season. She has hosted several shows on Food Network including “$40 a Day,” which featured an episode highlighting Tally’s in Rapid City and other Black Hills eateries.
The Rachael Ray Foundation is a private foundation funded by a portion of the proceeds of each sale of Rachael Ray Nutrish® pet foods. The foundation supports causes Ray is most passionate about, such as helping animals in need and working with organizations to empower kids and their families to develop healthy relationships with food and cooking.
“ProStart programs, and the educators who support them, provide high school students across the country with skills they need to be successful throughout life,” Ray said in a press release. “We (The Rachael Ray Foundation) are proud to support the dreams, passion, and hard work that these Grow Grant recipients display in their classrooms and schools as they cultivate the next generation of restaurant and food service professionals.”
“ProStart is a great opportunity for high school students to learn culinary and hospitality management skills applicable in an array of businesses, from restaurants to hotel management,” Nathan Sanderson, executive director of the South Dakota Retailers Association, said in a press release. “This is real-world career preparation at its finest.”