CENTER LINE, Mich. (AP) — A chef plans to cook up interest in food and cooking at a new charter school in Center Line specializing in the culinary arts.
Chef Mark Prentiss and his wife, Debbie, plan to open Rising Stars Academy for students with special needs in the now closed Miller Elementary School in Center Line. They recently received approval from Center Line Public Schools to operate the charter school, which will have an emphasis on cooking and preparing foods.
"It's something I have wanted to do for a long time because I can see the need to helps kids who are out of high school," Mark Prentiss told The Macomb Daily of Mount Clemens ( http://bit.ly/14R3oy6 ). "It's going to be a school where we can teach our students how to do a lot of things such as order vegetable and fruit seeds, grow the products in the ground, keep them vibrant, sell them, count the money and establish a budget."
Prentiss currently works as a culinary arts teacher at the Warren Career Prep Center in Sterling Heights. His wife teaches business at Cousino High School. Both said they will keep their current jobs and make a decision on their future depending on enrollment at Rising Stars Academy.
Prentiss said the school's board of directors have years of experience in business, food management and preparation and special education. Prentiss said board members believe all students can learn but it takes some longer than others.
"There is a massive need for this type of school," Prentiss said. "After high school there is nowhere for them to go. Our six-acre garden and their teachers will be the catalyst these kids need to live a productive life.
"These kids are going to learn different things at Rising Stars such as growing food, harvesting it and cooking it. Our motto is 'from farm to plate'. Students also will learn good eating habits."
Prentiss also said that increased socialization will provide valuable life lessons.
So far Prentiss said 18 students are enrolled. Capacity is 200.
The school has a six-acre garden where the student can grow pumpkins, watermelons, corn, tomatoes, radishes and cucumbers. He said the work that goes into growing the vegetables in the garden will improve the students' social skills.
Students will be taught how to deal with money, life skills, personal finance and transportation.
"The whole concept is to take the food they grow, sell it or cook it and eat it," Debbie said.
The Prentisses also will start a restaurant at the school that will be open to the public once the students learn how to cook.
"Our goal is to get our students employed," Prentiss said. "Whatever money we get from the state to run the program we will have fundraisers such as chef competitions."
The school district receives 3 percent of the money the facility receives to run the program.
Prentiss said his venture has gotten a lot of support from farmers and businesses including Weingartz, Jet's Pizza, Sterling Inn, Buffalo Wild Wings, MGM Grand and others.
"We're a transitional life skill program and there is a need for it in our society," Prentiss said.
Information from: The Macomb Daily, http://www.macombdaily.com