HAMMOND — Alan Barry just moved to Louisiana a few weeks ago but is already settling in.
The 15-year-old enrolled in Southeastern Louisiana University’s Zoom into Careers, a program held last week on campus in which junior high and high school students explored the exciting fields of culinary arts, inventing, photography and television.
“Choosing a career path is one of the most important decisions on the horizon of every high school student,” said Tammy Bourg, SLU’s provost and vice president for academic affairs.
“This program taps the expertise of Southeastern faculty and area professionals to provide hands-on opportunities for young people to explore their options while having a fun experience. It is a creative approach that Southeastern is taking to contribute to the area’s workforce development.”
For Barry, the program — culinary arts — was one he said he thought would “be something to do during the summer, and I do a lot of cooking so I thought it would be fun to learn some new things to do.”
As he worked hard with his group Thursday morning to prepare a meal of stuffed meatballs with marinara sauce, roasted vegetable salad, pesto crusted tuna and a flourless chocolate torte, Alan said he was impressed with the program.
“I learned how to separate the yolk from the egg white,” Alan said.
“We learned how to do sushi and also learned how to do fried rice,” he said.
The high school student, who said he wasn’t sure what he’d like to do after high school, thought the culinary arts program would be a “good way to explore different endeavors.” Plus, the workshop gave him a way to “brush up” on his cooking skills, he said.
The group of students spent three days learning different cooking techniques, and on Thursday prepared and served a meal to their family members and friends.
“My favorite part (of the class) was getting to meet everyone,” Alan said.
Now in its third year, Zoom into Careers is quickly becoming popular with youth looking for a career path.
In its first year, the program enrolled 15 students. On Thursday, 38 students were busy trying their hand at things they love.
“It’s slow growing but it’s good,” said Joan Gunter, assistant vice president for extended studies. “We want to maintain the quality of the program.”
Gunter said SLU will be adding new classes to next year’s Zoom into Careers.
“We want to offer a summer program that offers two opportunities for students: for those college bound and those going to a community college,” she said.
The program offers youth an opportunity to “test the waters” before settling into an unfamiliar career,” Gunter said.
“The workshops are career specific,” Gunter said. “Students work in teams — just as they would in real work environments. Upon completion, each will have a finished product for portfolios or to share with family and friends.”
For chef Kevin Foil, lead culinary instructor at Northshore Technical College, the youth have “done just about everything.”
“Everyone comes in with their own skills,” Foil said. “My goal is to give these students a taste of what it would be like to work in a restaurant.”
Foil, who started cooking with his family when he was 6, initially didn’t make cooking his career.
Foil said had he known that he could have made a career of it, he would have entered the culinary world sooner.
“Had someone said culinary arts is something you can do, I would have been interested,” Foil said.
The class is important for many students because, as Foil put it, “you either love it or you hate it.”
“Even if they’re not doing this as a career, they still have to eat, so the ability for them to be able to feed themselves is important,” he said.
Foil said culinary classes for adults are in the works now. To learn more, email Foil at firstname.lastname@example.org.