CATS Snack Shack open for business
BY HALEY JONES
The Career and Technical School’s Snack Shack is a life-skill and vocational opportunity for students to experience an entrepreneurial, business setting.
The project was first sparked in November at the Energy United Bright Ideas luncheon, when Danielle Dixon, a teacher at CATS in Troutman, received $1,000 for a classroom project.
On Thursday, students, staff and guests celebrated that vision becoming a reality with the CATS Snack Shack grand opening.
“The kids make the grocery list, do the shopping, take orders from the staff, handle the money, prepare the food and clean up the kitchen,” Dixon said. “It’s a completely student-run entrepreneurship.”
Dixon came up with the idea because of a need for this skill area in the vocational preparatory course. The program already focuses on processing and production, computer technology and business marketing, and construction and industrial trades.
“In this program, students are taught work skills,” Lee Cope, Occupational Course of Study Program Coordinator, said. “We put them through a rotation of skills to help identify their strengths, needs, and preferences for a job-type setting.”
Cope also stressed the soft skills acquired by the program, such as appropriate dress and punctuality.
The Snack Shack will add a new element to the program, focusing on consumer services.
Because CATS is a non-traditional school, there is no cafeteria present on campus. This absence created the perfect opportunity for the creation of the snack shack project – providing teachers with lunch and students with the opportunity to utilize important skills such as grocery shopping, budgeting, cooking and preparation. The money made by the Snack Shack reinvests itself in the program, buying the groceries that students use to fulfill orders.
During a typical week, students pass out and then collect order forms and money from teachers. Students then split the responsibility of buying the groceries and preparing the orders. Students also get exposure to a wide variety of foods, with different themed-menus, such as Frybotchi Friday or Frankfurter Friday, each week.
The students are still in training, said Larry Rogers, CATS principal, but once training is completed, the Snack Shack meals will be served once a month.
“Anytime you can give students an opportunity to showcase their skills, is a special day,” Rogers said. Rogers was one of the guests of honor invited to the grand opening of the snack shack.
The program was also assisted by a community grant from Walmart and various donations, like the flooring of the cooking lab and the dishwasher, donated by Lowes of Troutman. Brian Levy, Store Manager of the Troutman Lowes, was also invited to the grand opening.
“It is extra special to be a part of this program,” said Levy. “But to see it firsthand makes being a sponsor and supporter well-worth it.”
Students have benefitted from the skills taught by this CATS program. Avery Stokes plans to study the culinary arts once in college.
“My mom has been a cook since 2003 and she influenced my interest in cooking,” Stokes said. “At home, I cook for my sisters and mother. And when I’m here, I cook. I really enjoy it.”
The program is a successful one, with a positive, life-skill impact on the students but all participants are in agreement about one very important aspect: Dixon is the driving force behind the program.
“We’re lucky to have her,” Rogers said. “We could not have asked for a better leader in this project.”
“I’m proud of my teacher,” William Gandy, CATS student, said. “She won this grant because of us putting forth the effort, but that wouldn’t be possible without her guidance.”