This national culinary program is coming back to Norfolk schools

The first class of students in the newly launched ProStart high school culinary program. (Melanie Occhiuzzo/Southside Daily)
The first class of students in the newly launched ProStart high school culinary program. (Melanie Occhiuzzo/Southside Daily)

NORFOLK — Students of Maury High School and Norfolk Technical Center will get to be a part of the first class of ProStart, a National Restaurant Association Education Foundation program.

The ProStart Program is the premier culinary arts program for high school students, officials said.

The program teaches students everything they need to know about the culinary arts and the restaurant industry.

Funding for the program comes from a $1.1 million donation by Hu Odom, president and founder of BOTH Inc. which owns 21 Golden Corral franchises in five states.

Odom’s donation will allow for direct investments in local classrooms to ensure students have the training and work readiness skills needed for success in Virginia’s growing hospitality industry, officials said in a news release.

“We are excited and grateful when industry icons like Hu Odem invest in the next generation of restaurant and foodservice leaders,” said Rob Gifford, president of the National Restaurant Association Education Foundation. “Hu’s donation will ensure young people in Norfolk and Hampton Roads can obtain the skills and training they need to pursue any of the limitless job and career opportunities our industry has to offer.”

Odom hopes students will use the ProStart program to not just enter the culinary industry but use the skills for whatever path they choose beyond graduation.

Jahquan Christopher, Maury High School senior, plans to do just that.

“[The program] gives another opportunity, it’s another option,” he said.

His brother also is in the culinary field as well and Christopher said he hopes to have a few plans set in place for post-graduation career paths by participating in this program.

ProStart has been available to city schools in the past but took a 3-year hiatus to restructure and retrain staff, said Kenyetta Goshan, senior director of Career and Technical Education & Adult Education Services for the city’s public schools.

“This is an exciting time for students, staff and the division as a whole,” Goshan added.

The first class of students will start this fall and the school district hopes to see them use Tidewater Community College’s culinary courses as a stepping stone in their careers, said Sharon Byrdsong, acting superintendent of the school district.

To learn more about ProStart, click here.

To learn more about the National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation, click here.

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