by DEBRA MONTANDON
A ribbon cutting ceremony recently was held for the new Culinary Arts program at the Lubbock Center campus of South Plains College.
“You all coming today is an opportunity to be eye witnesses for this life-changing program for the citizens of Lubbock, Hockley County and surrounding towns,” Ben Alexander, executive director of the Lubbock Center/Workforce Development, told the audience at the event on Oct. 5.
“Two years ago, this was an abandoned car dealership,” Alexander said of the building at 3907 Avenue Q in Lubbock. “There were more doves and coons than people coming through here in the last few years.”
Now this building houses four fully-equipped cooking labs, a bakery lab, meat processing lab, refrigerator and freezer storage, dry storage and a small kitchen or room at the back of the facility used for washing dishes and other household work.
“We are so proud of the partnership and a lot of hard work and generosity of those who are here today, to make the dreams of our kids a reality, to make a place where kids did not have the opportunity to go to school now have the opportunity to go to college,” said Alexander.
Alexander also mentioned one particular student who is enrolled this semester who did not have the $33 for a test that is required.
“Her perseverance has kept her focused,” Alexander explained, “and now she wants to open her own catering from her home. These dreams have happened because of the partnership that happened because of the team work in this room.”
Dr. Robin Satterwhite, president of South Plains College, followed by introducing the Partners in Education who contributed to the project.
“There was a 10,425 square-foot hole that needed to be fixed,” said Dr. Satterwhite, who thanked the representatives from United Supermarkets, the JT and Margaret Talkington Charitable Foundation, Helen Jones Foundation, Lubbock Economic Development Alliance, ETR architects, JT Martin Foundation, Alan Henry Foundation, and City Bank.
“The U.S. Department of Education’s Strengthening Hispanic-Serving Institutions program, in the amount of a $681,000 grant, was written by Stephen John,” Dr Satterwhite added. “This grant bought all of the equipment you see.”
Following Dr. Satterwhite’s comments, Natalie Osuna, Culinary Arts program coordinator, presented an overview of the program.
David Cea, president of the Lubbock Restaurant Association, followed with remarks on behalf of the Culinary Arts Advisory Committee.
United Supermarkets also contributed a student scholarship. A second scholarship endowment, the Johnny and Darlene Vest Memorial Scholarship, was established by the Vest family of Levelland to support students in the program.
Approximately 50 students are enrolled in the program for the 2018 fall semester. There is also projected enrollment of more than 128 students in the next two years.
Students in the program had prepared snacks and drinks that not only looked beautiful but tasted delicious.
The SPC Culinary Arts Program has three full-time faculty members, Osuna, Patrick Ramsey, program specialist and executive chef, and Austin McManus, instructor in Culinary Arts.
A special acknowledgement goes to Steve Aufill, Gary Stephens and the staff of BGR Architects of Lubbock and Jim McCutchin, Zach McCutchin and thestaff of McCutchin Construction in Levelland for their work in the design and renovation of the culinary arts instructional area.