Gazette opinion: Community partners: Recipe for student success

2014-05-05T00:00:00Z Gazette opinion: Community partners: Recipe for student success The Billings Gazette
May 05, 2014 12:00 am

Most teenagers haven’t prepared a meal for more than one or two people. Four Café Protégé students now have experience in making lunch for 350.

The Salute to Education last week was the largest ever of these annual gatherings honoring the city’s top academic achievers among the graduating classes of Senior, Skyview, West and Central high schools. The event also honored more than 60 businesses and organizations that are partnering with local public schools. This year’s luncheon was sponsored by the Foundation for Billings Public Schools, The Billings Gazette, Gainan’s and the Northern Hotel.

This year’s event included a demonstration of one of those business partnerships. The Northern Hotel invited students in the Career Center culinary arts program to work with the Northern’s professional chefs on the Salute to Education luncheon. Usually, these students have their culinary instruction at City College.

High school students Breanna Beddes, Angie Demeray, Megan Hardcastle and Kody Miller and their teacher, Dorothy Bonk, arrived at the Northern’s kitchen early Wednesday morning to start working on Thursday’s luncheon.

“The lunch you ate was prepped, made, plated and served by students,” Northern Hotel owner Mike Nelson told the crowd. A year after the completely renovated Northern opened, Nelson said the bar is being raised on expectations for the Billings hospitality industry. He encouraged students to consider becoming “service professionals.”

The Career Center students already are thinking of their next steps. Three plan on enrolling in post-secondary culinary schools, one plans on joining the U.S. military.

The Career Center has more than 25 partners sharing business expertise with high school students. Most other partnerships are at elementary schools. Krista Hertz, executive director of the Education Foundation for Billings Public Schools, shared a few examples of how local businesses partnered with our schools this year:

- ExxonMobil employees hosted lunch and learn with Bench Elementary students to share career information.

- Billings Clinic hosted a career day for McKinley elementary students.

- Career Center students constructed a home in partnership with the Home Builders Association. After 30 years, many graduates of this program are now owners of local construction businesses.

- Phillips 66 employees adopted classrooms at Orchard Elementary where they helped students with reading and math.

- GE employees volunteer weekly at Washington Elementary.

- First Interstate Bank donated fleece fabric for the Bitterroot Elementary Student Council project in which students made blankets and donated them to Eagle Cliff Manor residents. First Interstate also partnered with Highland Elementary on a coat drive.

- CTA employees expanded their volunteering at Newman Elementary, adding math mentoring to challenge top math students.

- Farmers Insurance donated school supplies for teachers.

- KOA employees chaperoned Ponderosa Elementary students on a field trip to Pompeys Pillar.

We echo Hertz in thanking all the Partners in Education who support our schools. The employees who volunteer and the employers who promote volunteerism contribute mightily to the success of Billings students.

As Hertz said: “Students gain self confidence and assurance knowing that there are many caring people in our community dedicated to their education and success.”

Valedictorian & Platinum grads

The grand finale Thursday was recognition of 33 valedictorians. Additionally, Senior High’s first graduating class of 16 Platinum Scholars was honored. Platinum Scholars completed every honors and AP class during their four years of high school.

To qualify for valedictorian honors in Billings Public Schools, students must take at least one honors course every semester and maintain a perfect 4.0 grade point average.

Central High selects just one student per graduating class for valedictorian honors by considering various academic achievements among 4.0 students.

Congratulations to all the valedictorians and Platinum Scholars. Congratulations to their parents and teachers for instilling a love of learning and a strong work ethic in these bright young people.

Copyright 2015 The Billings Gazette. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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