Woodlawn High ProStart, Agriculture Partnership Is Win-Win for Students Ag Science Class Shares Eggs, Vegetables with Cooking Class
- March 10, 2011
A realistic look at the lifecycle of a chicken was in evidence recently at Woodlawn High School – but in different ways in different classrooms. It begs the question, which came first at the school – the chicken or the egg? The answer depends on which class you attend and what the day’s assignment is.
As chicken stock bubbled in steaming pots in the ProStart I food preparation class, 11th grader Brieanne Warner (first photo, left) was learning how to debone a chicken with instructor and chef Steven Oubre (right). Oubre had purchased the meat from a local Wal-Mart. Later in the day outside the school buildings and near a newly constructed greenhouse, Agriculture Science students were feeding their flock of chickens and checking the student-made coop for eggs (second photo, left to right: students Deanna Moore, Charles Davis, Raquella LeBlanc, Jordan Anders, Winnifred Domino, Chris Dedon and Daisy Nsibu).
Oubre and Agriculture Science instructor Cade LeJeune thought it just made sense to join forces on educational projects and funding, so that’s exactly what they have done. Already the teamwork is reaping benefits. At last week’s State ProStart Competition sponsored by the National Restaurant Association at the Ponchatrain Center in Kenner, Woodlawn High’s Hot Food Team from the ProStart program competed for the first time. “The event was a great experience for the four kids involved. They practiced so hard and did such a great job preparing the food, it was sad to see them not place,” Oubre said. “It is a lot different cooking in front of a crowd and camera crew. I am still so very proud of their efforts, and next year they will be even more prepared.”
The contest was no easy task with their three-course Cajun/Asian-themed competition meal including an entrée of blackened duck breast with raspberry pepper jelly, toasted sesame seed, wilted spinach and red curry with ginger sweet potato cakes toped with marmalade sauce, among many other dishes. All of it had to be completed within a specified time period with limited heat-cooking devices.
The partnership has paid off in other ways, too. Currently, Ag Science is sharing the eggs (not the meat – the chickens will remain on site for their eggs) they collect with ProStart to cook various dishes. That may include specialty cake and cookie items that can be sold to staff and students and the revenue shared among the two programs. In addition, plans are in the works for the “fruits” of the Ag Science garden this spring to be used in ProStart student meals. Then, possibly once a week, a little “café” can be opened at lunchtime for staff and students. Again, the proceeds would be shared between the programs.
“I signed up for ProStart I class because I want to be a chef,” Warner, 16, said. “I love to cook. It fascinates me to mix things up and then they become something. It’s like chemistry. I cook at home with my dad.”
As Oubre guides Warner in safely cutting through the center of the chicken and popping the leg bones away from the body, Warner gets the benefit of learning hands-on from a true, professional chef. It’s a first for Woodlawn High School. He still maintains a catering business called Cajun Culture, is a former personal chef for New Orleans Hornets Player Peja Stojakovic and for area doctors and attorneys and previously was the executive director of fine-dining establishment Boule Prime House in Covington after a stint as sous chef with Aramark. At age 23, he was the youngest sous chef they had ever employed. He has a bachelor’s in Culinary Arts and Science from Nicholls State University (the culinary school is run by Chef John Folse), and this summer Oubre will be taking the American Culinary Federation certification testing for culinary instructor and personal chef.
The Louisiana Restaurant Association Education Foundation (LRAEF) administers the Louisiana ProStart statewide in 49 high schools with 1,250 students participating. The program is a dynamic and comprehensive two-year foodservice curriculum that encourages juniors and seniors to learn all aspects of operating and managing a foodservice establishment. The Louisiana ProStart approach links students, schools and workplaces together for one continuous learning experience. This is accomplished by students taking the ProStart course and completing 400 internship hours in a structured hands-on worksite. Upon the completion of the academic requirements and paid internship, students receive the National ProStart Certificate of Achievement.
“It makes a difference learning from a real chef,” Warner said. “He has more experience and has actually dealt with this every day in a restaurant.” The ProStart program began at the school about four years ago but is being ramped up this year. Currently, there are 18 junior and seniors enrolled in ProStart I and five seniors in ProStart II. Plans are to add nutrition and menu planning courses, as well.
Today is a cleaning day for Oubre, who is working with students in between meat preparation to wipe down and organize the three student kitchens, the two center teaching kitchens and his own professional work kitchen. Before and after class, there’s also lots of pre time – including shopping for ingredients. This is his first year on the job. His wife teaches sports medicine at Dutchtown High School, and she and his two children would miss him during long-time cooking contracts such as those out of state with hunt clubs. “This way, I still get to do what I like to do and teach kids who want to go into the industry and hopefully give them a career path,” Oubre said. Some of the students are already going down that career path. For instance, senior Chase Broussard, 18, a ProStart student at Woodlawn High, works at Galatoire’s restaurant part time.
Oubre said he hopes the Ag Science class can work with his students to begin a ProStart Café, where students not only learn about preparation, safety and cooking but also inventory, product, nutrition and finances. They made a small step toward the plan in early February by making and selling 150 king cakes to the staff and students. “With the Ag Science class, we will be able to help each other out,” Oubre said. “Funds aren’t always available, and he can raise the chickens for eggs and the vegetables at a low cost, then we can use them to help kids pay for fees and other things related to both classes.”
In the Ag Science class, teacher LeJeune, who also is the school’s Future Farmers of America (FFA) advisor, oversees 90 students throughout the school day in a variety of courses, ranging from General Agriculture, Carpentry, Construction and Electricity. He is state certified in Agriculture Science and also is new to the school and its agriculture program.
“We’ve built a chicken coop using old lockers for them to roost in, and now a second one. The students are working on the greenhouse to start a vegetable garden this spring, and soon we’ll be building picnic benches for the school, too,” LeJeune said. “I’d like to include an integrated pest management system with the garden this spring then try to build a small stable and get some goats for next year. That could include lessons on plans for disease control.”
A new father as well, LeJeune had been in touch with a Covington agriculture teacher. And when he offered to donate seven chickens for the students to raise, LeJeune jumped at the chance. Now the students tend Polish Black-and-Whites, Polish Brown Stripes, Plymouth Rock and traditional types of chickens.
Student Raquella LeBlanc, who is partial to the brown-striped chicken, strokes its feathers and talks to it. “I have a farm in Mississippi where my grandfather raises cattle. When I heard an Agriculture class was coming to the school, I thought it would be a good real-life learning experience because one day I may take over the family business,” LeBlanc said. “Now I’m learning livestock judging, and I used the knowledge I learned about the health of cows and the Ph balance needed to grow vegetables so they eat healthy when I visited my family farm.”
“Each of the chickens lay at least one egg a day, sometimes more,” LeJeune said. “So sometimes we sell the fresh eggs for 10 cents each to students and staff and even people in the community who like fresh eggs more than store bought. It’s always a great way to make a little profit to pay for part of the program. We can share eggs with the cooking class, but the chickens will remain in our care for their eggs only.”
Between the class and FFA, Agriculture Science is taking off among Woodlawn High School students. Daisy Nsibu, an 11th grader and president of the Woodlawn High School Future Farmers of America (FFA) Chapter, has won the 2011 Area IV FFA Gulf of Mexico Speaking Career Development Event (CDE). Nsibu’s speech, “Barrier Islands and Their Role in Coastal Protection,” focused on the threats facing Louisiana’s barrier islands and offered potential solutions to save these vital elements of our coastal region.
This was the first time Nsibu had ever given a speech, and she competed against 10 other FFA members from all across southeast Louisiana. Her win is the first for Woodlawn High’s FFA Chapter, which was established this school year. Nsibu will move on to compete in the State Gulf of Mexico CDE at the FFA State Convention in June.
The National FFA Organization, formerly the Future Farmers of America, is a dynamic, student-led organization for students in agricultural education. There are more than 500,000 FFA members nation-wide and nearly 10,000 in Louisiana. FFA promotes premier leadership, personal growth and career success for students through middle and high school agriscience programs.
For more information, contact Woodlawn High School Principal Jimmy Newman, Oubre or LeJeune at (225) 753-1200.
Principal Brister in Washington, D.C., to Accept McKinley Middle School’s Second Blue Ribbon Award
On Tuesday, November 13, 2012, Principal Herman Brister (pictured, left) and the school’s Teacher of the Year, Lynn Williamson (right), were in Washington, D.C., accepting McKinley Middle Academic Magnet School’s National Blue Ribbon Award from U.S. Department of Education’s Director of National Blue Ribbon Schools Program Aba Kumi (center). The event, which recognized some 314 schools from across the United States, was held at the Omni Hotel. Click herefor story.
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