March 25, 2021
Culinary arts students at Parry Sound High School had some special guests join them recently. Stephen Lecce, Minister of Education, and Norm Miller, MPP for Parry Sound-Muskoka dropped in for a virtual lunch-hour tour on March 16 to explore the school’s renowned Specialized High Skills Major (SHSM) tourism and hospitality program and state-of-the-art industrial kitchen.
“I want to thank Parry Sound High School and Blair Cousins for inviting me to speak to his impressive class of culinary arts students as they diligently prepared a veritable feast of dishes,” said Education Minister Stephen Lecce. “We want to ensure students consider all available career options, including those in the skilled trades, and have the opportunity to explore them as they consider their futures. Parry Sound High School’s prestigious program is the gold standard of practical skills training.”
An impressed Minister Lecce spoke with students about the hands-on learning opportunities and real-world experiences captured during their lunchtime cooking.
Student Kendra Potvin said, “It was an honour to speak on behalf of SHSM and as a co-op student in the hospitality course, since hospitality and tourism has been one of my favourite courses to take in high school. It was great to show what hard work goes into our kitchen each and every weekday.”
Students in the program run the cafeteria, which sees the entire school community enjoy nutritious meals, all while learning how to cook and bake.
“It was pretty cool to be able to talk to Minister Lecce and talk about my Cookie Monster cake,” said student Dakota Walker. “It was cool that he took an interest in our class out of the many classes he could have chosen.”
NNDSB Chair Jay Aspin said, “Our board was exceptionally pleased to host Minister Lecce and Mr. Miller to view and appreciate first-hand our fabulous culinary program at Parry Sound High School. The program has a long 30-year history of success and is regarded as one of the best culinary programs in the province.”
“It was a real pleasure to virtually tour Mr. Cousin’s Culinary Program at Parry Sound High School with the Minister Lecce and board members of Near North Public School Board,” said MPP Norm Miller. “The knowledge and skill the student’s displayed were truly impressive. When I was hiring in hospitality, I would have loved to have had access to young people with this training. These skills will serve them very well whatever path they choose to pursue.”
Along with the professional-grade kitchen and excellent programming available for students, teacher Blair Cousins leads students to explore their passions for cooking, decorating, and possible career avenues after secondary school.
“We were honoured to have Minister Lecce and MPP Miller choose our class to visit,” said Mr. Cousins. “We had the opportunity to showcase how we operate both as a classroom and a working kitchen.”
Mr. Cousins added students were happy to have Minister Lecce engage with them and talk about their work. “I was also able to discuss the SHSM program with Minister Lecce and appreciated his support for this valuable program,” Mr. Cousins noted.
“It was an honour to have Minister Lecce visit our highly acclaimed culinary program,” said Director of Education Craig Myles. “Having the Minister take notice of the incredible SHSM programming offered for students at Parry Sound High School reinforces the high calibre of learning for students and the strong leadership of Blair Cousins.”
SHSM supports students in planning for a career in the skilled trades. The hospitality and tourism program allows students to build a foundation of sector-focused knowledge and skills before graduating and entering apprenticeship training, college, university, or an entry-level position in the workplace.
Students learn about food preparation and hospitality services, connect with hospitality employers, participate in training and certification in customer service and safe food handling, and gain apprenticeship opportunities upon graduation.
Closing out the visit, Mr. Cousins presented Minister Lecce with the school’s cookbook ‘PSHS Eats’ as a token of appreciation for his time.
This cookbook was the fourth edition, first created by former teacher Nancy Beers and updated by Mr. Cousins and Ms. Ina Greenwood. The cookbook includes many recipes created or improved by students over the past 10 years with the Grade 11/12 class using these cookbooks for about 80 per cent of recipes used in class.
“I would like to extend a sincere thank you to Parry Sound High School’s tourism and hospitality students for welcoming our guests into their classroom, Mr. Cousins, and Principal Dawn Buckland for their strong leadership and commitment to NNDSB’s core values,” shared Director Myles, who offered his appreciation. “I also want to thank Minister Lecce and MPP Miller for attending and seeing the first-hand experience students are receiving at NNDSB. We look forward to welcoming you to NNDSB again in the future.”
Information about Near North District School Board:
Near North District School Board is an English-language public school board serving the North Bay – Parry Sound – Nipissing area. The Board consists of approximately 10,000 students in 27 elementary schools, seven secondary/senior schools and various alternative learning centres. For more information, please visit nearnorthschools.ca and follow Near North District School Board on social media.
For more information, please contact:
Near North District School Board
P. (705) 472-8170, extension 5083