Hands-on culinary class helps students soar

By Sarah Devlin

Students in the Rowan-Cabarrus Community College S.O.A.R. (Skills, Opportunity, Awareness, Readiness) program are now able to prepare for jobs in the hospitality industry by participating in a new food service training program at the North Carolina college’s South Campus.

The S.O.A.R. program serves adults with intellectual disabilities.

A new culinary class called Food Service Fundamentals covers various facets of food preparation and service, with students getting hands-on training by conducting the daily operations of the South Campus café. Students staff the café for breakfast and lunch under the direction of instructor and hospitality industry veteran Stephanie Dunlap.

“The South Campus café now serves as a learning lab where students enrolled in our food service course can hone their skills and prepare to work in a variety of food service settings,” said Rowan-Cabarrus President Carol S. Spalding. “We are proud of this innovative approach that combines classroom and hands-on instruction so that these students can build confidence in food preparation, serving, safety, and customer service.”

Students progress at their own pace as they learn to work the register, take orders, prepare food and provide customer service. In addition, they receive training in food service terminology, proper sanitation and other requirements so that they can earn the industry recognized ServSafe Food Handlers certification and be prepared for employment in the hospitality industry.

The class also offers instruction in cooking for themselves at home.

“I am so impressed with these students, and it is beyond rewarding to see them succeed,” Dunlap said. “They are exceptionally good at remembering people’s names and making them feel welcome, and that is extremely important in this industry. I see them at their happiest when they are constantly busy serving customers.”

The Rowan-Cabarrus S.O.A.R. program, which began in 2011 and has served well over 200 students in Rowan County, focuses on helping individuals become more independent by teaching specific skills needed to function successfully in daily life. Classes are built around each student’s unique strengths and goals, covering functional academics, community living, health and safety, leisure activities, and humanities. Students use computers and other technology and participate in campus and community activities.

S.O.A.R. classes are offered at no cost to the student.

This article originally appeared here.

Sarah Devlin

is chief officer of governance, advancement and community relations at Rowan-Cabarrus Community College in North Carolina.