Harlem High School student Anthony Zimmerman works at McDonalds, but his goal is to become a master chef.
The Career Search ProStart Program at Evans High School on Wednesday gave him hope.
"It looks neat the way she does it," Anthony said while watching a chain-saw wielding Kathleen Alsheimer from Augusta Technical College carve a swan out of a 300-pound block of ice.
This is the second year the Columbia County School System and the School to Work Partnership have played host to the Career Search event. Program manager Linda Sliger said the event gives students ideas about career opportunities.
"These kids think they are going to be lawyers, doctors, brain surgeons and football players, but when they get into the real world they find out what it's all about," said Laotha Carswell, Evans High School's ProStart instructor. "They can get into the culinary arts and earn more than we do. Plus it's a field where they can have fun and can use their creativity and talent."
The event featured speakers from local restaurants, such as the French Market Grille and Hot Foods by Calvin, and hospitality industry representatives.
"It made me see that you can start anywhere," Anthony said.
While only Harlem and Evans high schools have the ProStart program, 250 students from four high schools came to the event. ProStart is a professional foods program that seeks to direct students into careers in the culinary and hospitality industries.
Harlem is currently installing a professional-grade kitchen and restaurant, and Evans plans to follow suit next year.
Many of the program's students are placed in jobs while they're in school. Thirty of Evans' 50 ProStart students have been placed in related jobs, Mrs. Carswell said. The 3-year-old program's interest is so great that Harlem's program enrollment jumped from 20 last year to 55 this year, said Barbara Howard, Harlem High's ProStart instructor.
Dressed in a white chef's coat, Harlem ProStart student Fallon Waddell watched the program from the wings, splitting time between watching the ice sculptor and serving food at the event.
She said her goal is to open a restaurant in Grovetown with her uncle. The ProStart program has put her on the right path, she said.
"From managing a business to hospitality, there's such a wide range of things," she said. "This program provides the basics, so if you go into something you're not completely dumbfounded."
Reach Melissa Hall at (706) 868-1222, Ext. 113, or firstname.lastname@example.org.