Culinary arts students gaining experience in real world setting with Port Arthur summer program

Published 12:38 am Thursday, June 1, 2023

NEDERLAND — Leaders in Port Arthur Independent School District have found a solution to a staffing problem that will also give students valuable work experience this summer.

Robin Rhodes, director of child nutrition for PAISD, hired five students from the Career And Technical Education Campus’ Culinary Arts program who will assist the nutrition department during summer school.

Rhodes said Superintendent Dr. Mark Porterie planted the seed for the idea after last year’s struggle to get enough help for summer school.

Subscribe to our free email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

“We didn’t have enough time to work out the details for the students and we did end up with enough staff, but it started the discussions for the future,” Rhodes said. “This year, with a joint effort from a number of departments, we were able to bring it together.”

The students will tackle tasks ranging from prep, cooking and clean-up.

Rhodes has been with PAISD for more than three years and got his start in school nutrition more than a decade ago after spending 19 years in public health.

He said a friend brought him a job posting and asked if he had ever considered school nutrition?

“I fell in love with it and here we are,” he said.

The collaboration with the Culinary Arts students is a win-win situation for the district and students.

“The students benefit by getting work experience in a cafeteria setting as a paid position,” Rhodes said. “The District benefits by having additional experienced hands in some of our cafeterias. But something a little more intangible, I think both the district and students will come away with a better understanding of each other.”

Adrienne Lott, director of communications services for PAISD, said this gives the students experience in a more relaxing environment than if they were in a restaurant.

“This solves the storage of child nutrition workers but also gives, more importantly, our students hands-on experience in a real world environment where they can take what they learn from the culinary arts program and apply it to an employment situation,” Lott said.”

PAISD summer school runs from June 5 to June 29.