In just four years, culinary arts has taken off as one of the most popular classes at Harrison County High School. It is launching students on career paths and even spun off a catering business that supports the program. Jennifer Grause, 27, made it all from scratch.
“She doesn’t do it to just teach, she creates relationships. I’ve never known anyone who doesn’t like her. She’s like everyone’s friend, everyone’s mother. There are people who have never had her who still love her, who say that she is the best teacher. It’s why I have her five times a day,” says Jazmine Alistock, 17, a senior, who takes both culinary classes and a money skills class and serves as a student aide.
Jennifer teaches family consumer science. Last year she started Culinary 1, designed to expand upon the skills students learned in Foods and Nutrition. “One of the reasons I started this class was because I had so many students who wanted to be chefs, but didn’t really know what they were doing,” Jennifer says.
This year she started the Culinary 2 class. Christine Garnett, 37, a math and computer science teacher, says, “We need stuff like that. Not every kid is going to go to college. They need to be exposed to multiple disciplines so they realize they have lots of options. We need to get away from the stigma of ‘oh it’s just food or it’s just learning how to cook.’ Like, they can use the skills now. They can go out and get a job or have a career.”
Six of Jennifer’s students want to go to culinary school, two are currently accepted. The culinary courses are part of the new Family Consumer Science Pathways Program that Jennifer established last year. A pathways program is designed to prepare students for a career-ready field.
Jennifer's culinary program is completely self funded, using only money that the students raise doing catering work that is required for both culinary classes. Every semester students must complete eight to twelve hours of catering outside of school.
The culinary classes have quickly become some of the most popular in the school. “I have a waiting list, I turn people away every year,” Jennifer says.