Working the lunch shift might not be on everyone's ideal career list. But given the opportunity to try it out when you're 12 or 13 might give you an idea of whether it suits you while offering a little insight into how the real world works. Last Thursday about 32 seventh-grade students in Career and Technical Education classes at Bayonet Point Middle School turned Nadine Rife's classroom into the Patriot Restaurant, complete with red, white and blue table decor, and a menu that offered culinary delights such as club sandwiches, chicken casserole, salads, homemade vegetable soup, apple cobbler, and yogurt and fruit parfaits.
At least one student came away thinking that the restaurant business might not be the ticket for him.
"I'm never being a waiter," said Joel Crumpton, 12, after putting in about an hour's worth of labor waiting on folks like his dad, Greg Crumpton, and School Board member Kathryn Starkey. "It's too hectic."
On the other hand, Cole Hazlegrove, 12, was enjoying his stint at the soup and casserole station.
"I haven't really cooked before, so it's a new experience," Cole said, noting that he hadn't tasted the casserole he helped prepare. "But the customers say it's good."
Using hands-on techniques to teach students about running a restaurant — from food prep, to waiting and busing tables, to cashiering and designing menus — was the brainstorm of business teacher Jane Johnson and Rife, the family and consumer science teacher.
The two secured grants from the school's Career Committee and the Pasco Education Foundation Inc. for the learning activity. The program started a few weeks ago when students filled out applications and went through interviews for various jobs.
Students were trained and learned things such as proper hand and dishwashing, food preparation and how to calculate tax on an order.
The final grade comes with three lunch shifts, including one held last Thursday for a select number of adults from the school district and the community who were asked to fill out student-designed comment cards.
The restaurant will also open two days this week to offer lunch for two student classrooms.
With one shift under their belt, students had gotten a lot out of the experience, Johnson said.
"I've been telling them all day how well they've been doing," she said. "To me the most important thing was learning to listen and follow directions, to be organized, punctual and work as a team. These are some of the job skills they'll need."
"It's really good. Actually, it's delicious," said teacher Vicki Entwistle after server Kaitlyn Scott, 13, dropped off her order. "The salad is very colorful, and the sandwich with the lettuce and tomato, it's beautiful."
"It's a big undertaking," Rife said. "But maybe some of these kids will want to go on to a career in this, or at least further their education."
Equally important, said Rife, was how the activity might affect a student's life at home.
"A lot of kids eat out these days," she said. "I want the kids to learn that they can enjoy working and eating in the kitchen, and enjoy family time at home."