After-school program aims to turn Germantown High students into foodies

When the dismissal bell rings at Germantown High School, many students leave for their homes or even an after-school job.

Yet, some have the opportunity to cook, travel and experience Philadelphia’s rich cultural history through a after-school program at First United Methodist Church of Germantown which aims to teach the value of community service and healthy eating.

Barbara Mitchell, who founded the program 14 years ago, is a retired schoolteacher who believes in the potential that the students have.

“There are kids here who are striving,” she said recently. “I wish we could affect more kids at Germantown High.”

Because the program is open to every grade in the high school, freshmen have the opportunity to work with upperclassmen, who may have an impact on them.

“I’ve seen them encourage each other to go to school and stay in school” said Donna Miller, program volunteer.

Foodies in the making

While in the after-school program, students are able to participate in the “Dinner for Eight” program in which they prepare and cook their own meals. In a true first-come, first-dine sense, this portion of the program is open to eight students that sign up at the beginning of the academic school year.

Learning about cooking — which instills discipline and responsibility in, and out of, the kitchen — students serve each other the meals they prepared.

“They work with each other, and they grow a little,” Miller said of having seen bonds created that extend beyond the program. Some students in the program are needy; they attend the program for companionship.

Though the program, some are able to get summer jobs through the Career Awareness Program, where students are able to meet with and speak to business professionals, and attend plays in Philadelphia area ranging from Shakespeare to modern musicals.

Mitchell said the oversarching aim is to help students to stay in school and achieve.

“The neat thing about these kids,” she said, “is they’re so darn resilient.”

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Marchelle Roberts is a student at Temple University. Philadelphia Neighborhoods, a NewsWorks content partner, is an initiative of the Temple Multimedia Urban Reporting Lab.

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