NEWLAND — The culinary program at Avery County High School received a total of $20,000 after a group of alumni from the Leadership Avery program fundraised and received a donation match.
The program teaches high school students all about food and restaurant service.
Helena Kitchin, the culinary teacher at ACHS, said the funds will be used in a few ways. There will be scholarships available for students who plan to continue on into the culinary field, and funds to help students afford the supplies they need to work in food. The funds will also be used for classroom equipment and field trips.
Kitchin added she wants to continue working with area chefs for classroom demonstrations as well as trying to place students in local kitchens for internships, something that has also resulted from the alumni group.
“We really need to connect more students and local people to the resort areas,” Kitchin said. “So many of the resorts are bringing people in from outside of Avery County, but there’s a lot of people that are just not making that connection, so I’m hoping that this type of program will bridge the gap.”
Kitchin said even though there were only three advanced culinary students last year, all three are now working in the industry, adding about half of the students who take the foods and nutrition class will enter the culinary track afterward, with a few more students dropping away as they move up through the class levels.
Lesley Platek said after her alumni group graduated from Leadership Avery, a program run by the Avery Chamber of Commerce, her alumni group was implored to give back to the county. One of the ways they benefited the program at the high school was holding a fundraiser.
Platek said Stonewalls Restaurant co-owner Scott Garland agreed to match $10,000, resulting in the $20,000 total.
“$20,000 to go into a high school department really changes lives,” Platek said.
Platek explained if the 2018 Leadership Avery class is proud of anything, it is bringing awareness to the program at the school and helping give students careers that would allow them to stay in Avery County.
Platek said the idea came about at the beginning of last year, when alumni members met with Kitchin and some local chefs, and reconvened this year to make the fundraiser happen.
“The potential for everybody is pretty amazing,” Platek said.