What’s cooking at Rifle High School | PostIndependent.com

What’s cooking at Rifle High School

Theresa Hamilton
Director of Districtwide Services
Garfield Re-2 School District
Rifle High School students Tyler Stanley and Rachel Deming work on knife skills in the culinary arts class.

For Amber Baker, food is a direct connection to her grandmother.

“My Grandma has a cookbook that she wrote, and she would always make us Christmas dinner. My dad and I still make things out of her cookbook. It connects me to her,” said Baker.

It is that foundation and love of food that had the Rifle High School senior seriously considering a career in the culinary arts. A partnership between Garfield Re-2 School District and Colorado Mountain College is bringing that possibility closer to reality with the addition of several Career and Technical Education programs including culinary arts.

“This came along just at the right time,” she said. “It’s what I have wanted to do for a long time. It’s really cool.”

Baker and her Coal Ridge and Rifle High School classmates have spent the first part of the semester learning about food and equipment safety. They are now spending hands on time in the kitchen learning to prepare food.

“I was surprised at everything you have to know,” said Coal Ridge High School senior Ashlyn Kaufman. “I’m used to traditional kitchen equipment, but there is a lot more to know and understand.”

Kaufman isn’t sure if a career in the kitchen is in her future, but she sees the culinary arts program as a good investment.

“These are great skills to have either personally, or for a job later,” she explained.

For years, Garfield Re-2 has had exceptional auto mechanics and agriculture programs. For the 2010-11 school year, CMC and Re-2 have expanded the career and technical education programs offered to students at both Rifle and Coal Ridge High School. Students at both schools can take classes in culinary arts, welding, certified nursing assistant and early childhood education.

“This is a great opportunity for our students,” said Rifle High School counselor Cindy Skinner. “It offers a gateway into a career and education. It also helps them decide on their future. Taking these classes may develop a career path, or the students may decide that they want to look at something else as a career.”

Currently Garfield Re-2 has students enrolled in the culinary arts program, welding and CNA program.

Dr. Barbara Johnson, Instructional Chair at the West Garfield Colorado Mountain College campus explained that students not only get classroom instruction in their area of study, but hands on experience and in many cases internships as well.

“Students are able to graduate with skills that enable them to get a job right away,” Dr. Johnson explained. “Many of our students will be doing internships with Grand River Hospital District, local restaurants, and other places where they get practical experience.”

The Career and Technical Education collaboration with Garfield Re-2 exists in Roaring Fork School District and Garfield District 16 as well, and emerged from the regular meetings that CMC has with area school district superintendents.

“I’m very excited about it,” added Dr. Johnson. “We’re off to a great start. The hands-on component of this program makes a critical difference in learning.”

She emphasizes that the Career and Technical Education classes are for all students.

“I think it’s a good choice for all students. It gives them a set of skills to be able to use whether they want to jump-start their careers or work while in college.”

In addition to the skills that the students are learning, Beth Sass, counselor at Coal Ridge High School sees another advantage.

“These students are treated like college students. They are with us in school for three periods, and then their afternoon is free,” explained Sass. “They need to take responsibility for getting their work complete. They have to take care of the requirements for their career and tech classes. This will prepare them for the time management required when they enroll in college, or head into the work force.”

Currently, the program is open only to seniors. Dr. Johnson said that next year, CMC would like to expand the Career and Technical Education program to include drafting and other possibilities are still being discussed.

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