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Citizen Schools – Take Back the Kitchen

by Shilpi Roongta

10 vol­un­teers from the Social Enter­prise Insti­tute have been involved in an excit­ing vol­un­teer­ing pro­gram through Cit­i­zen Schools, in part­ner­ship with Haley House in Dud­ley Sqaure. Cit­i­zen Schools is a national not-for-profit orga­ni­za­tion aim­ing to improve inner city edu­ca­tion by extend­ing the school day through the use of “appren­tice­ships”.  Appren­tice­ships are taught once a week by “Cit­i­zen Teach­ers”, or local com­mu­nity mem­bers with pro­fi­ciency in var­i­ous areas. These teach­ers range from col­lege stu­dents to lawyers to cor­po­rate employ­ees and they select the sub­ject of their appren­tice­ship accord­ing to their inter­est and exper­tise with a focus on build­ing the stu­dents’, or appren­tices, “21st Cen­tury Skills”. These skills are con­sid­ered to be nec­es­sary for the appren­tices’ suc­cess and include col­lab­o­ra­tion, oral pre­sen­ta­tion, team­work, global aware­ness and prob­lem solv­ing. Appren­tice­ships cul­mi­nate with a “WOW!”, which is the last ses­sion of the appren­tice­ship where stu­dents show­case what they have learned for their fam­ily, friends and com­mu­nity members.

This semester’s appren­tice­ship, called “Take Back the Kitchen”, has 16 eighth graders from the Orchard Gar­dens Pub­lic K-8 School in Rox­bury. Pre­vi­ous stu­dents from the “Bizkids” appren­tice­ship had been clam­or­ing for more food-based activ­i­ties, and we heard them loud and clear! The apprenticeship’s goal is to teach the appren­tices about what they are eat­ing, where it comes from and how it is grown, how they can make bet­ter eat­ing choices and how to cook. North­east­ern Stu­dents have been plan­ning in-class lessons that cover all of these areas through the use of videos, group activ­i­ties, taste tests and short lec­tures. Addi­tion­ally, every two weeks, the stu­dents are given a cook­ing les­son by Chef Vanessa LeBranche in the main kitchen at Haley House.

Dur­ing this time is when the appren­tices are learn­ing the skills and recipes nec­es­sary to cook a full four-course meal that will be served dur­ing their WOW! on May 24th at Haley House. Each ses­sion has focused on one ingre­di­ent and one part of the menu. For exam­ple, the most recent cook­ing ses­sion focused on toma­toes and the soup or salad por­tion of the menu. In order to teach stu­dents healthy recipes that they can incor­po­rate in their ever day lives they make not only a fancier item but a sim­ple dish as well. They used the time in the kitchen to make a deli­cious baked Bruschetta and a Chicken Salad with a Lemon and Olive Oil based vinaigrette.

While the stu­dents always cringe at the sight of fresh veg­eta­bles in the begin­ning of the ses­sion, they have become mas­ters at cut­ting and chop­ping them up and of course, eat­ing them! These cook­ing lessons have proved to be a great way to get all stu­dents involved and to expose them to foods out­side of their com­fort zone of Pizza and Chicken Nuggets! With only a few ses­sions remain­ing, the stu­dents will be learn­ing their entrée and dessert courses as well as ways they can make a dif­fer­ence by chang­ing a few eat­ing habits. If you are inter­ested in this pro­gram and would like more infor­ma­tion, please con­tact us at the SEI!





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