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Quesadillas with cheese and corn relish, on a grilled honey wheat tortilla, fresh salsa and roasted red pepper sour cream. Cheesecake, drizzled with homemade raspberry sauce. Homemade potato chips.
That hardly sounds like typical high school fare, but you can not only find dishes like this at Stow-Munroe Falls High School for students, it is prepared and served by students.
Stow-Munroe Falls High School is a training ground for future culinary artists and hospitality experts, and it provides education in these studies for students in the Six District Educational Compact.
The Six District Educational Compact involves six area school districts -- Cuyahoga Falls, Hudson, Kent, Stow-Munroe Falls and Tallmadge City Schools and Woodridge Local Schools -- which have pooled their resources to provide career training and college tech prep to its students, as well as the community.
The culinary and hospitality program's practice ground is Joshua's Restaurant, which is within the high school. Not only can students sample what their peers are serving up, but the public is invited to come enjoy something from the Joshua's menu or the salad bar on Thursdays and Fridays, from 10:45 a.m. to 1 p.m. In addition, Joshua's is open every morning, where early birds can enjoy a coffee bar, bagels and muffins from 7 to 7:30 a.m.
"We want them to be hands-on," said Tracey Lee, culinary arts instructor. "We want them to use their 21st century skills and teamwork. Everyone has a gift they bring to the table, whether it's working with food or working with people. It's our job to teach them, but it is also our job to learn from them."
Lee said she works along with Chef Jen Giangaspero on the crucial skills students will need to pursue a career in the culinary or hospitality field.
"Chef G and I, we kind of tag team," Lee said. "She's the chef instructor. She works with the students in the back and their culinary skills. I do safety and sanitation, hospitality, and dining room services and operations."
Senior Sydney Hamolia of Cuyahoga Falls said that she wanted to be a caterer or an executive chef.
"Chef G. got me into the business," Hamolia said as she sliced chicken breasts. "When I came to the orientation last year, I fell in love with the kitchen. I've been cooking since I was 5, with my mom. Last week, I had a bad day and baked a cake. Just because."
Robert Daniels, on the other hand, said while he likes to cook, he's planning to study ecology and zoology in college.
"I love to cook, so that's why I started here," said Daniels, a senior at Kent Roosevelt. He was slicing pineapple into thin pieces and arranging them on a plate. "When I was 6, I was in the kitchen with my mom, and ever since then I've been cooking. It's a hobby for me."
Dante DiGeronimo, a senior at Hudson High School, said that he was president of the Italian Club at the school.
"I want to do multiple Italian culture dishes," DiGeronimo said. "I want to honor my heritage." He added that he may open his own restaurant one day, when he's older.
A.J. Greer, a senior at Kent Roosevelt, was working on a carving of a lobster out of watermelon pieces. He, too, said his mother inspired him when he was young when it came to cooking. However, he views cooking as more of a hobby.
"I want to go to Kent and major in psychology," he said. "I realized as I got deeper in, [cooking] is not what I want to do for the rest of my life."
Brittany Bailey, a senior at Kent Roosevelt, said she learned cooking from her grandmother when she spent her summers with her grandparents.
"I'm hoping to open my own bakery in Kent," she said as she breaded chicken breasts. "I would make cupcakes, that is what I am really good at, and other desserts."
Breanna Hubbard, a senior at Cuyahoga Falls High School, said she currently works at the Country Inn and Suites in Cuyahoga Falls. Her experience there has inspired her to pursue hospitality as a career.
"I've applied to Kent State's hospitality program," Hubbard said in a January interview. "Right now, I man the front desk and help set up meeting space rentals.
Joshua's has "a huge community following," Lee said.
"We have customers who come every Thursday or Friday," Lee said.
In addition to the regular hours, the culinary students also organize a December buffet. Lee said the buffet "is one of our biggest events of the year."
"It always sells out," she said. "We have people calling in September to get their names down for tickets."
For details on Joshua's Restaurant, call the high school at 330-689-5445. In addition, updates on the restaurant are posted on Joshua's Facebook page.
Six District Educational Compact
Mary Jane Stanchina, the executive director for the Six District Educational Compact for the last 35 of its 46 years, said that the Compact offers a variety of programs and workshops.
"We have a conference for eighth-grade girls interested in math and science," Stanchina said. "We've been doing this since 1997. Also, in the summer, we do a summer aviation experience, in a partnership with Kent State University. We've been doing that for quite some time."
Students in the six school districts have a wide variety of career options to explore: automotive, business, computers, cosmetology, criminal justice, robotics, forestry, health careers, marketing, teaching, theater and more.
"We just added the criminal justice program this year, at the Cuyahoga Falls High School," she said.
The Stow-Munroe Falls High School is the site for four of these programs, Stanchina said. As well as the culinary and hospitality program, the high school also provides education in aeronautics and programming and software development. Stow-Munroe Falls High School is also the site for another program started this year, the International Business Academy. In addition, the high school also offers one of the four components in the Engineering Academy, with instruction on polymers.
One feature at Joshua's restaurant is a recent collaboration to obtain food products from local farms and local business, Stanchina said.
"Last year, to my delight, they started the farm-to-table concept," she said. "They have local purveyors of foods."
Local vendors include Kirbie's Meats, Breakneck Acres, TLC Farms and Bent Tree coffee, according to information provided by the Six District Educational Compact.
All of the programs offered through the Six District Educational Compact have at least one university partner, Stanchina said.
"Some of them have two or three partners," she said. "But each career field has at least one."
Currently, there are a total of 4,262 students participating in programs through the Six District Educational Compact, Stanchina said.
For details on the Six District Educational Compact, call 330-655-2535 or visit www.sixdistrict.com online.
Six District Educational Compact Timeline
1969 -- The six superintendents from Cuyahoga Falls, Hudson, Kent, Stow-Munroe Falls, Tallmadge and Woodridge first propose a regional approach to meet new vocational mandates.
1970 -- Agreement signed by the school districts
1975 -- Eldon Reiboldt hired as the Compact's first full-time executive director
1985 -- Mary Jane Stanchina hired as new executive director
1986 -- First Reading and Writing Festival
1987 -- First Leadership Conference for middle school students
1996 -- The first tech prep initiative, the Manufacturing and Pre-Engineering Academy, started. Also, the Urban Forestry/Landscape Horticultural Career program began.
1997 -- The first Diane Burbick Conference on Math and Science for middle school-aged girls given
2001 -- Cisco Networking begins at Cuyahoga Falls High School
2002 -- The first Aviation Career Experience held, in cooperation with the Division of Aeronautics, School of Technology at Kent State University
2003 -- The Compact starts its Collision Repair and Auto Refinishing program in an offsite location in downtown Cuyahoga Falls
2006 -- Project Search, a transition program for high school students with disabilities, opens in partnership with Summa Health System.
2009 -- The new Aviation Careers Academy College Tech Prep was started at Stow-Munroe Falls High School and Van Deusen Hall on the Kent State University Campus.
2011-12 -- Biomedical Engineering and Technology Academy opens at Woodridge High School
2013-14 -- Students in the Culinary Arts and Catering College Tech Prep worked with professionals from the Pro Football hall of Fame to create a menu for a luncheon at Joshua's Restaurant. The lunch was followed by an all-school assembly to honor Larry Csonka, '64, who played professional football and was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
2015-16 -- Criminal Justice program at Cuyahoga Falls High School, and Programming and Software Development at Stow-Munroe Falls High School, start
-- Information provided by the Six District Educational Compact