PHS students learn food service first-hand

By Argen Duncan: PNT senior writer

Through folding napkins and filling tea glasses, a group of Portales High School students are getting first-hand experience in food service.

Students in the ProStart food service class and the extracurricular organization Family, Career and Community Leaders of America have been serving meals at various events, including last week at the National Honor Society banquet.

Stenstrom said this is the fourth meal her students have served this year. Junior Jessica Lavalle said they served a meal or two every nine weeks last year.

Lavalle said the hands-on experience has helped her in her waitressing job, since she’s learned such things as sanitation and keeping customers happy. She participates in ProStart and FCCLA, and said they are “awesome.”

“You have a lot of opportunities to learn,” she said, listing people skills and cooking different meals among the lessons.

PHS teacher Becky Walker said the students have served the Delta Kappa Gamma Key Women Educators, which she’s involved in, two meals in the past two years.

“They’re really learning how to prepare and what to do,” she said.

Even though Stenstrom couldn’t attend one of the meals, Walker said, the students decorated, prepared and served the meal with help. They were organized, personable and knowledgeable about what they were doing, she said.

Stenstrom said ProStart, a program offered through the National Restaurant Association, teaches customer service, event planning, careers in food service, cooking and more. FCCLA has competitions and activities in various areas, including some that overlap with ProStart.

Serving at banquets lets students work in the public, Stenstrom said.

“They get to develop the skills they need when they go out and get a job,” she said, adding that already having those skills benefits the students and their employers.

The students pitch in at banquets upon request.

“If it’s something we can help with, we’re more than happy to help, but we’re limited on what we can do,” Stenstrom said.

She said the ProStart program and facilities have improved in the past few years, and she hopes to one day be able to cook as well as serve food for events.