Education

Bellefonte Area students learn what it takes to run a restaurant

Bellefonte Area students run Life Skills Cafe

Bellefonte Area students in Rachael Davis' life skills class hold a cafe the last Friday of each month. Davis said the 10 students learn to cook, balance a budget, serve staff who sign up for lunch and more.
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Bellefonte Area students in Rachael Davis' life skills class hold a cafe the last Friday of each month. Davis said the 10 students learn to cook, balance a budget, serve staff who sign up for lunch and more.

Kevin Doyle has a motto when he cooks.

“The more cheese the better,” the Bellefonte Area High School freshman said.

That’s why on Friday morning he added an extra layer of mozzarella to two pans of homemade lasagna. Each pan weighed about 10 pounds, which included two pounds of meat, one pound of ricotta cheese and another pound of mozzarella.

10 students in BAHS life skills class

Doyle is one of 10 students in Rachael Davis’ life skills class who participate in the student-run Life Skills Cafe.

The mission, Davis said, is to teach students skills in the classroom that could be valuable in real-world situations.

Students plan recipes, purchase food, determine how much ingredients to use, balance the cafe’s budget, cook meals and learn to provide good customer service.

The cafe, which is held on the last Friday of each month, is open for a limited number of Bellefonte Area faculty and staff to pick up a homemade meal for lunch.

“We’ve made a lot of stuff and a lot of really good stuff, too,” sophomore Brittany Chamberlin said.

Life Skills Cafe run by students in Rachael Davis’ class

So far, the menu has included pulled pork with homemade dry rub, macaroni and cheese, lasagna, a Thanksgiving-type meal with all the traditional fixings, mashed potatoes, garlic bread, baked beans, a variety of desserts and more.

For students who might not be able to help prepare the meals, there’s a variety of other jobs and responsibilities to choose from.

“It’s tailored for every student so they can be a part of the process,” Davis said.

Micah Heckathorne uses a machine that speaks for him.

On Friday, he welcomed guests to the cafe by pressing buttons that either greeted or thanked customers.

Davis also said the students are learning how to use public transportation to get to the grocery store to buy the items needed.

We’re really focused on teaching things that promote individual living ... It’s also a transition to job skills like dish washing, cooking and being waiters, and a starter to put on a resume.

Rachael Davis, life skills teacher

“We’re really focused on teaching things that promote individual living — like how to get from one place to another, and how to cook, and how to balance a budget and how to communicate with others, so this is meeting all those needs for them,” Davis said. “It’s also a transition to job skills like dish washing, cooking and being waiters, and a starter to put on a resume.”

English teacher Jennifer Walter attended the Life Skills Cafe twice since its inception at the beginning of the school year.

“The food is delicious and it’s nice to support a class that’s working so hard,” she said.

Faculty and staff who’ve been customers each month provide feedback to the students.

“We love that they keep coming back,” Davis said. “At this point we’re on to what their favorites are.”

Freshman Kayla Bruss said the most positive response has been to the lemon mousse dessert.

First cafe had 8 customers; there were 16 on Friday

When the idea to hold a restaurant-type project with the students rolled out, the class planned to make a meal for up to eight customers. On Friday, there were 16, Davis said.

“We’re getting to a point we needed to turn people away and make a cap,” she said.

Money raised goes back into the life skills program in order to purchase recipe items. Leftover funds also fund various student field trips, such as swimming at the YMCA. They’re also planning a movie theater trip or a day to spend at DelGrosso’s Amusement Park.

Britney Milazzo: 814-231-4648, @M11azzo

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