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ProStart provides opportunity for culinary-minded students

HIGHLANDS RANCH – When most of us put a piece of bread in the toaster, we do not put a lot of thought into the chemistry reactions that not only turn the toast brown, but also release that sweet smelling aromas and tastes.
“There are enzymatic reactions and nonenzymatic reactions. When you toast the bread, that’s when you’ve got starches and proteins reacting to help brown it,” explained ThunderRidge chemistry student Matt Beck , during a special visit to the school’s ProStart kitchen.
The interdisciplinary lesson about the Maillard reaction, which brought ProStart culinary students together with chemistry students, is part of the International Baccalaureate program’s curriculum.
“We’re teaching them aspects of culinary—while they’re teaching us aspects of chemistry. We’re learning how they go hand and hand,” explained TRHS Junior and culinary student Serena Smith.
“Working in this environment is exactly the same as doing a chemistry lab,” added TRHS Chemistry Teacher Nicolas Babcock, who conceded that some of his students were out of their element.
Of course, the same would be true for the culinary students, if they were in a chemistry lab.  That is why both pathways are available to Douglas County School District students and valued by the District.
ProStart Instructor Aryann Roberts says some students, who struggle elsewhere, find their educational niche in the kitchen.
 “Those kids who aren’t really the best at English or social studies find a place in ProStart. That can actually be their career for the rest of their life. Once they figure out this is home, it just allows them to blossom and become who they are,” Roberts explained.
Regardless of whether a student feels more at home with quadratic equations, a paint brush, beakers, or a mixing bowl, there are a myriad of options for them.
“Everyone needs to find their place. Hopefully we’re offering something that they can fall in love with and want to do for a long time,” Babcock added.
ProStart was developed by the National Restaurant Association 15 years ago as a way to introduce students to the culinary, restaurant and hospitality industries. Today the two-year career and technical program reaches more than 95,000 students at 1,700 high schools in 47 states, Guam and U.S. military bases, at home and abroad.
ThunderRidge High School launched its program three years ago. It now draws students from across the southern metro area.
“We have kids from Littleton High School here, we have kids from Highlands Ranch. We have kids from all sorts of high schools in this program,” said Smith.
In those few short years, ProStart Teachers Katy Waskey and Aryann Roberts and ProStart mentor DCSD Chef Jason K. Morse, CEC, have built a significantly competitive ProStart program. 
This year, the school’s team won first place overall at Colorado ProStart Invitational Competition, held at Johnson & Wales University on Friday March 9th.
“The final ProStart Invitational is kind of the culminate final end. [A chance to] show what you’ve learned and compete against 15 other schools across the state,” Roberts said.
While the focus is instilling students with the skills they will need to succeed in the culinary or hospitality industries, Roberts says the many skills students learn from time management to attention to detail can benefit any student. 
“Being in the ProStart program teaches you a lot of skills—for anything, whether you go into culinary or just life skills: how to multi task, how to get a lot done and how to do it in a rapid pace,” Roberts said.
For more information on the ProStart program, visit or find us on Twitter or Facebook. Watch live streaming of the NRAEF’s 12th Annual National ProStart Invitational at
October 14, 2013 | By Anonymous | Category:

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