Oakcrest High School takes health seriously, for both its students and staff.
The Oakcrest Teen Center, a youth services collaboration between the Greater Egg Harbor Regional High School District and AtlantiCare Behavioral Health, has promoted well-being of staff and students alike through several initiatives and programs since it was established in 2006.
On Feb. 7, the Teen Center sponsored a heart healthy cooking demonstration for staff hosted by the school's culinary program coordinator, Troy Jenkins.
English teacher Charlene Newman, who also participated in the Teen Center's Walking Challenge last month, logging her steps each week in January, was one of a dozen staff members who attended the cooking demo.
"When I heard that we had this cooking class, I said 'Oh perfect,'" Newman said. "This is just another step I can take to get back into a healthy lifestyle."
Newman and others learned to make such heart healthy meals as broiled chicken in a teriyaki glaze with brown rice, roasted vegetable pizza and broiled salmon.
The recipes Jenkins discussed at the demonstration were derived from his culinary curriculum, which he has taught at Oakcrest for three years. The program consists of two one-year courses: Culinary 1, which is available to sophomores and above, and Culinary 2/3, which follows the first year. Students are taught the basics of the culinary industry, from safety habits and simple baked goods to more complex dishes such as omelets.
Kenny Rodriguez, a junior Culinary 1 student, and Chloe Morales, a junior Culinary 2/3 student, helped Jenkins at the cooking demo. Rodriguez, who hopes to attend culinary school and dreams of someday owning his own restaurant, said his experience in the culinary program has been a good one.
"I would recommend it to other people just because it's fun," Kenny said. "Mr. Jenkins really gets you involved. That's what I like about it."
If students complete both levels of the curriculum, they are made eligible for a $2,000 credit to the culinary program at Atlantic Cape Community College.
The program is a valuable one for any student regardless of their interest in pursuing a career in the culinary industry, Jenkins said, because cooking is a valuable skill both personally and professionally.
"I just feel every skill you can put in your bag of tricks (you should)," Jenkins said. "Adults all know (that) life deals you a lot of funny things. It's an up-and-down roller-coaster ride, so the more things you can fall back on (the better.)"
Newman, who has taught for 27 years, has little use at this point for cooking as a back-up career. Still, the admitted novice chef said she enrolled in the class because she thought it important that she hone her skills in the kitchen.
The teacher didn't know what to expect from the blurb on the Teen Center's site, she said, but had a good time learning alongside her coworkers nonetheless.
"I was telling these guys, I didn't know I was going to have to work. I thought I was just going to watch and eat, but it was actually fun," Newman said.
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