Skip to main content

ProStart Grow Grant Winners

Eight schools from across the country will receive Rachael Ray Foundation and Yum-o! grants to add ProStart to their curriculum and ramp up existing ProStart programs in their high schools.

The grants total a $425,000 investment in ProStart.

Learn more about each school below. Click here to learn more about the opportunity from our newsroom.

seat_logo.png Dalhart High School
Educator: Stephanie Ellis
Principal: Scot Wright

With a grant from the Rachael Ray Foundation, Dalhart brings ProStart to their local high school – and the first person who will learn culinary techniques is its family and consumer sciences teacher, Stephanie Ellis.
Located in Dalhart, Texas, Dalhart High (DHS) serves more than 400 students, covering both Dallam and Hartley counties. DHS educator Stephanie Ellis has taught Consumer and Family Science for the last five years. Now she’s ready to take the next step to teaching culinary techniques – but first she has to teach herself.
“I feel underqualified to teach my students,” said Ellis in her essay. “I want to learn. I want to be able to answer all my students’ questions with confidence. I want to give my students all I can give them. Receiving this grant will allow me the opportunity to learn and grow for my students and for my school.” 
Ellis hopes to use the grant to purchase exams, textbooks, kitchen equipment and uniforms, go on more field trips with her students and improve her professional development.


seat_logo.png Johnson County Vocational Technical High School
Educator: Craig Cox
Principal: Leon Henley

Johnson County educator Craig Cox looks to expand ProStart at his school to help students figure out their lives after graduation. With the lowest socio-economic status in East Tennessee and a high unemployment rate, Johnson County lacks some of the career opportunities needed for young people in the area. Cox recognized this need for his ProStart students, and submitted his application knowing that expanding ProStart could help.
“ProStart gives students opportunities they would never get anywhere else! From industry certifications to apprenticeships to work-based learning opportunities, ProStart leads the industry in all of these,” said Cox.
Cox is hoping to give his students the opportunity to learn from industry experts, implement a food truck business run by the students and make sure ProStart graduates have the work-readiness skills needed to pursue jobs after graduation. “ProStart could change our learning environment by updating our materials and equipment to today’s standards,” a Johnson County high ProStart student shared. “It means acquiring college credits before I graduate… it means meeting and learning from apprenticeships.”
Johnson County high has been a ProStart school for over 5 years. The school has one ProStart educator with 150 Prostart students currently enrolled.


seat_logo.png West Rowan High School
Educator: Katelyn Owen
Principal: Jamie Durant

Inspired by Rachael Ray, West Rowan High culinary instructor Katelyn Owen aims to boost ProStart at her alma mater.
Owen teaches at the same high school she attended over ten years ago. The difference between now and then? Even though she had the passion, she didn’t have access to a program like ProStart. “It was a combination of family members and Food Network stars like Rachael Ray that sparked the passion I carry with me today.”
Located in Mount Ulla, North Carolina, the rural community surrounding West Rowan has limited culinary resources for its students. Owen hopes to build a commercial kitchen to ensure students will have the opportunity to get certified for logging more hours for their Certification of Achievement in house, and ultimately, start a business plan for a fully functioning food truck. West Rowan has been a ProStart school for the last few years with 190 students and two educators.


seat_logo.png San Diego High School
Educator: Brian Murphy - 2019 Educator of Excellence Award Winner
Principal: Francisca Del Carmen-Aguilar

Award-winning educator Brain Murphy looks to change more lives through ProStart. A 10-year veteran of ProStart, a 2019 Educator of Excellence Award winner and with over 300 students enrolled at San Diego High School, Murphy is no stranger to the curriculum. In fact, he consistently strives to improve the education of his students by enhancing it. It’s not uncommon for some of his students to talk to him about the financial stresses of living in San Diego and having to sleep on milk crates, in vehicles or share a room with six other people.
“The contagious success of a program that truly shines will attract more potential ProStart students and increase the quality of industry in San Diego,” Murphy noted in his application. “Feeling a sense of belonging is something ProStart does well for these students. A kitchen ‘family’ brings a sense of security and belonging students crave.”
Murphy believes showing the students real-world experiences from industry and instructing them in a fully-licensed commercial kitchen will create an oasis that will not only help them become industry leaders but also change the industry for the better.
Murphy plans to use the funds for new kitchen supplies, ingredients and uniforms.


seat_logo.png Rio Vista High School
Educator: Tiffany Taylor
Principal: Charles Mims

Up until last year, Rio Vista High School educators were using family and consumer sciences to educate students interested in honing their culinary skills – until demand was so high that culinary educator Tiffany Taylor decided the next best move was bringing the ProStart curriculum to her students.
Located in a rural county outside of Fort Worth, Texas, Rio Vista High is surrounded by only four restaurants. With the ProStart grow grant, Taylor knows she can help her students explore a world they never have before.
“The thing that I like the most is that it gives students the insight into other career paths they have never thought of before,” Taylor said about the ProStart curriculum. “Many enter through my doors because they want to cook, it’s a ‘fun class’. They stay because they like me but then they find something that clicks for them and helps them to realize this might be something they could do for a living.”
With the new funds, Taylor hopes to bring in new kitchen equipment and start a student-based enterprise for Rio Vista High.


seat_logo.png Colonial High School
Educator: Maria Almestica
Principal: Dr. Hector Maestre

Maria Almestica knows Colonial High School is ripe for expanding ProStart. They’ve used the curriculum for over 15 years, and it shows based on the influx of interest: over 600 applicants attempt to join the program annually, which only accepts 150 students.
Located outside of Orlando, Florida, CHS is right at the heart of the hospitality and tourism industry. “As a predominantly Hispanic community, parents and students find in Colonial and in the ProStart program an advantage that the other schools in the area do not have,” Almestica said.
Students at Colonial often face language barriers, as many of the students’ first language is Spanish. To help improve their communications skills in English, Almestica piloted a small catering program. The pilot resulted indramatic improvements for the students, helping them pass state tests and ServSafe® certification exams.

“We have seen measurable success and we are now seeking to expand our Colonial Culinary Catering program to address the needs of all the at-risk students,” Almestica said.
Almestica hopes to help students access better jobs and careers, update their equipment to benefit the school and the community and purchase ingredients, uniforms and paper supplies.


seat_logo.png Taunton High School
Educator: Leigh Howlett
Principal: Matthew Mattos

“The main reason for becoming a teacher after 35 years in “the business’ gives me a chance to make a difference… to pass along my expertise, my passion and excitement to a new generation,” said Leigh Howlett, one of three culinary instructors at Taunton High School (THS) in Massachusetts. Together, the educators have coached the Management and Culinary Teams to success. Within the last three years, THS has placed at the national competition, and in 2018, educator Sarah Gibson won an Educator of Excellence Award from the NRAEF.
“I had never felt more proud of my team or myself in my whole life,” said a sophomore ProStart student from last year. “Because of ProStart my confidence level has been boosted.”
The educators of THS have taken the CTE curriculum to new heights, recognizing how CTE students perform against their non-CTE counterparts. “Students are more engaged in their lessons and can more fully grasp the content then they are able to answer the key question: Why does this matter?” said Howlett.
THS has over 100 ProStart students. Howlett plans to spend the ProStart Grow Grants on new textbooks, new kitchen equipment, student travel to competitions and practice materials for students.


seat_logo.png Bladensburg High School
Educator: Andre Williams
Principal: B.A. Mahoney

Andre Williams, instructor at Bladensburg High School (BHS) in Maryland and 2019 Educator of Excellence award winner, teaches ProStart and helps other schools in Maryland as they launch ProStart programs of their own. He built a relationship with the Marriott Marquis in Washington, DC to show his students what a hospitality career looks like in the real world. “As a teacher you know that ProStart teaches more than culinary skills.”
“Prostart changed who I am, because now I feel like I can be confident and creative in school and in the real world. It has also given me a better idea of how I would like to be as a manager," said Kristen S., BHS ProStart student.
Williams also supports his students in becoming ServSafe® certified to find higher paying restaurant jobs, as some students have families or children of their own to support. Starting this year, he’s expanding ProStart to night school to help more people access to the program.
With the grow grant, Williams hopes to purchase uniforms, aprons, footwear and hats, new kitchen equipment and go on more field trips to industry partners and colleges.

The ProStart Grow Grants would not be possible without the support of




National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation

Our Affiliates

© 2021 National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation. All rights reserved Privacy Policy