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National Restaurant Association - ProStart puts alum on professional path

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ProStart puts alum on professional path

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For Sandra Clavijo, learning about food and sharing that knowledge is the spice of life.

A 2009 graduate of the National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation's ProStart program in Atlanta, Clavijo, 20, said immersing herself in culinary training at age 15 changed and enriched her life in myriad ways she didn't anticipate then, but is grateful for now.

"I look at how I was before ProStart and after and can't believe how much I grew," she said. "Today I'm really focused in school and in everything I do. I feel like my friends are just figuring out what they want to study in college, but I know what I like and want."

During her sophomore year at Meadowcreek High School in Norcross, Ga. Clavijo enrolled in ProStart, the NRAEF's two-year program that teaches culinary techniques and management skills. She said she did it because she thought it would be fun, not because it would lead her toward her career.

"I honestly didn't know, had no idea about what to do," she said. "I heard about ProStart and knew I liked food. I'd always watched the Food Network when I was younger and thought I had to try it. So I took an introductory culinary class and it was fun."

As she continued her studies, Clavijo, the daughter of a Peruvian immigrant, knew she'd found her calling.

"At first it was more of a curiosity and way more fun than sitting in statistics class," she said. "Then we actually started learning about food, got to cook it and I really began to love the program. In my junior year, I was in a group of five girls and we grew to a level where we became confident with each other. Food industry professionals came in and tasted our food. We went to Nationals and that's where I saw what ProStart really was. We saw all of these kids doing the same thing we were doing. That was pretty sweet."

Fast-forward two years and Clavijo is back where she started while moving light years ahead. Once again she is in ProStart - this time working part-time for Lee Gray, Georgia's program coordinator, while pursuing a bachelor's degree in marketing at Georgia State University.

"I'm really excited about this," she said. "It's my first grown-up job. I already have my culinary degree from the Art Institute of Atlanta, so I kind of hope with a marketing degree I'll really stretch the envelope. ProStart made me see there is so much out there. Working with food is great, but after going to the different expos and seeing people there who run huge [restaurant] businesses, I'd like to stretch the industry envelope."

 

Read more about ProStart at http://www.nraef.org/prostart

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