West St. John students get head start with ProStart

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, February 12, 2008


Staff Reporter

EDGARD- The kitchen was bustling with activity in West St. John High School as members of the ProStart culinary arts program prepared a meal for state inspectors from the Louisiana Department of Education who were visiting the school.

One group of students was intently slicing vegetables for a vegetable tray and arranging fruits for a fruit tray. Another set of students was preparing boiling noodles and melting hunks of cheese in a sauce, the main course of shrimp fettucine alfredo.

Teacher Lindy Reeves vacillated from one group to the other, issuing orders and occasionally doling out attention and instruction in equal doses.

Reeves, a third generation teacher after her mother and grandmother, graduated from Nicholls State University with a degree in family and social sciences three years ago and took over the program shortly thereafter.

Currently, 27 students at West St. John participate in Reeve’s program.

Through the program students are able to become certified by the National Restaurant Association by taking tests at the end of their junior and senior years and completing 400 hours of service in the food industry.

“When I first started this class I was put in here. All we did is book, book, book,” said sophomore Daylon Feist. “Now I may make a career out of this.”

Feist said certification means a start that would make the task of getting into the restaurant industry much easier.

At the beginning of last year Reeves attended a Louisiana Restaurant Association (LRA) meeting in Baton Rouge in search of a different direction for her students.

She found what she was looking for when the LRA- Baton Rouge offered their partnership to West St. John’s ProStart program.

Students are now taking field trips to LRA affiliated restaurants in the Baton Rouge area where they learn the ins and outs of the restaurant business. The students are also treated to lunch.

In addition to the practical experience LRA- Baton Rouge has pledged $2000 in financial assistance and material assistance in the form of sets of knives and countertop appliances as well as funds that will be used to purchase a side by side freezer for the school’s test kitchen.

Additionally LRA- Baton Rouge provided scholarships for hotel costs at the upcoming ProStart competition that will be held February 20-22, 2008 in New Orleans.

Reeves said she got the idea of contacting LRA from an Orleans Parish teacher who is affiliated with LRA- New Orleans and has won two out of the last three ProStart competitions.

This year Reeves expects her team to place in the competitions.

She said in preparation for the competition the students will be practicing their meal by making it three times a week in the weeks leading up to the event.

Although cooking may seem an unlikely extra-curricular activity for high school students, you would not be able to tell it by talking to these students.

“I do track and drama,” said sophomore Asia Lynn Cureau. “But to me ProStart is the best.”