School program snags state work based learning grant

By BUSTER WOLFE,

Oak Grove High School’s Culinary Arts program is receiving a $7,000 state grant for a Work Based Learning Initiative to establish a campus café by working closely with Cotton Blues Restaurant and its owner, Chris Ortego.

The grant from the Mississippi Department of Education is for a Work Based Learning Initiative for a school-based enterprise to provide culinary students opportunities to invite community members and business/industry representatives for special occasions/functions in the café’.

Ortego, who watched Oak Grove High School’s culinary team performance in the statewide Junior Chief competition Tuesday, said he was excited to be helping the local program.

“Education is a silver bullet and the solution to all of life’s issues,” he said.

“Obviously, I am partial to the kids going through the culinary program,” he said.

“I think the program is going to offer them job opportunities that are vast and bright. There are always going to be opportunities for people who cook and know how to.”

Ortego said other opportunities are available besides a four-year college.

“I think it’s always good to show kids different alternatives to education,” he said. “It doesn’t always have to be a traditional four-year college; it can be a culinary job, an internship or going to work. I just wanted to support them, help them and give back a little bit.”

The culinary arts program is providing the opportunity for a career, Ortego said.

“There’s going to be a lot of change in the job market over the next 20 years with artificial intelligence,” he said.

 “I can see this is a secure job that will bring a lot of opportunity down the road. You can’t replace the creativity part of it.”

OGHS Culinary Arts instructor Debbie Miller said she is excited about this opportunity for students to learn and practice career-related skills in this collaborative Work Based Learning Initiative effort with Ortego and Cotton Blues Restaurant.

Lamar County School District students benefit greatly from community members and businesses that support career and technical education projects and initiatives.