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National Restaurant Association - How ProStart helps disadvantaged students succeed

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How ProStart helps disadvantaged students succeed

The National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation's ProStart program is helping students from Rhode Island’s economically challenged communities beat the odds.

William M. Davies Jr. Career and Technical High School students learn the fundamentals of food preparation, customer relations, management skills, table service, purchasing and food sanitation through the two-year culinary arts and restaurant management curriculum. The students also prepare and serve food at the school.

ProStart is one of 10 technical programs at the school, which serves six school districts. Minority enrollment at the career center is higher than the state average, and 70 percent of its students come from economically disadvantaged families. Child poverty levels at three of the districts range from 25 percent to 40 percent.

However, programs like ProStart and partnerships with the business community and post-secondary institutions provide students with transferable technical skills, academic knowledge, and the keys to promising, long-term careers.

Although the school sends an average of 58 percent of its graduates to post-secondary school, all 27 ProStart seniors were enrolled in college this fall. Nine attend Johnson & Wales University, three attend The Culinary Institute of America, and others are studying at state or community colleges in Rhode Island.

One of them, Keyla DeHoyos, studies baking and pastry arts at the CIA’s Hyde Park campus in New York. She credits ProStart with helping her find the connections and scholarships she needed to attend.

“I met many industry leaders, who became mentors and personal references through ProStart,” DeHoyos says. “All those connections helped me get to where I am right now, and helped me improve myself as a person.”

“To me, ProStart is a community,” she says. “We learn and grow together as a whole.”

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