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Students begin work-based culinary arts L.O.O.P. initiative


LOOP logo JACKSON, Tenn. – The Jackson-Madison County School System is charting new ground in Tennessee with its L.O.O.P. initiative’s Hospitality and Tourism program.  The work-based learning course in culinary arts is the first of its kind in the state. It offers seniors who have completed culinary arts classes at Liberty Technology Magnet High School the opportunity to attend classes half of the day and work at local businesses the other half. 


“Just like our advanced manufacturing L.O.O.P. students at Stanley Black & Decker and TBDN, our culinary art students are getting invaluable work experience as paid employees all while completing academic requirements for graduation,” explained Dr. Eric Jones, JMCSS Superintendent. “This program is preparing our students for success beyond high school in a new and exciting way.”  L.O.O.P., which stands for Local Options and Opportunities Program, began in January.


The Old Country Store, a full-service restaurant and catering business, and Gourmet Your Way, a catering-based business with a walk-in retail space in the works, have partnered with JMCSS to make the program possible. 


“We love the concept and are excited to be part of L.O.O.P.,” said Clark Shaw, Old Country Store and Casey Jones Village CEO. “When you can take what students have learned in class and integrate it with hands-on experience in a real-life restaurant setting, you are giving students a front row seat to growing and advancing their skill sets and new opportunities to expand their culinary horizons.”


“We have worked with the culinary arts program at Liberty Tech for several years and are excited to expand this partnership,” stated Ben Hays, Gourmet Your Way owner.  “Hopefully this real-life experience will allow each student to determine if food service is a possible career path for their future and will allow Gourmet Your Way to develop relationships with future leaders for our company.”


Currently, 13 students make up the program’s inaugural class.  Invitations were extended to seniors based on their program of study, school attendance, GPA and overall performance in their culinary arts classes.  To remain in the program, students must fulfill all graduation requirements and stay in good standing with their employer.


Culinary arts instructor at Liberty Tech, Leslie Emerson, is overseeing the program.  “Participating in L.O.O.P. will significantly enhance a student’s success beyond high school,” she explained.  “Being part of the workforce will show them how furthering their education and earning certifications will help them qualify for higher-level positions and increase their earning potential.”


Liberty Tech is home to JMCSS’s only culinary arts program and The Taste of Liberty, a student-run restaurant and catering service.