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ACES students to begin cooking at senior center

News Photo by Steve Schulwitz Students from ACES Academy in Alpena get their photos taken by Alpena Senior Citizens Center Public Relations Manager Tracy Niedzwiecki. The photos will be used on ID badges which they will wear while taking part in Project Student Gourmet. It is a program that will prepare the students with job training.

ALPENA — More than 20 ACES Academy students got their identification badge photos taken and began their journey into cooking and restaurant management career exploration at Alpena Senior Citizen Center Friday.

Thanks to a $200,000 grant from Michigan Health Endowment Fund, the students will have an opportunity to work in a kitchen at the senior center through Project Student Gourmet to learn more about food preparation, cooking and customer service.

Program Manager B.J. Sander said the project is a big deal because it exposes the students to a commercial kitchen where food is prepared and served to many people.

“We have been waiting for this day for a long time,” Sander said. “This is all about preparing them for job opportunities when they graduate and I have already had a few of the kids tell me they want to be chefs.”

Sander said the students will be split up into teams and each will name their restaurant and become owners of it. The lessons they learn will determine how successful each is, in a real life situation.

“Starting in October the kids will be in the kitchen from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. serving the noon meal,” she said. “Then starting in November they will be preparing the dinner meal on Fridays and some of our staff will serve it. The kids are really pumped up about this.”

Some of the food the students will serve is grown in a garden outside the senior center.

“We talked about garden to table during the grant application and we have had fresh lettuce on our salad bar,” Sander said. “We are struggling a little now because of when the project started. As you know gardens don’t last that long in Michigan.”

Sander said there are plans for a greenhouse at the senior center as well. She said that will allow for more fresh fruits and vegetables to be grown and served.

“While I was talking to the kids in the kitchen, it sounds like many of the kids are interested in gardening as well,” she said.

As the students interact with the seniors there is hope the students enjoy the experience and volunteer at the center in the future.

“There is the potential for that,” she said. “The focus is to help them prepare for the workforce, but having them become more involved would be a nice side benefit.”

Steve Schulwitz can be reached via email at sschulwitz@thealpenanews.com or by phone at 358-5689. Follow Steve on Twitter ss_alpenanews.