The Kokomo Area Career Center (KACC), which is operated by the Kokomo School Corporation in Kokomo, Indiana, never stops looking outside of the box for meaningful learning experiences for its students from nine different high schools.
I have been teaching Culinary Arts and Baking Pastry at the KACC for 12 years. In May 2012, I shared with my Kokomo Schools Superintendent, Dr. Jeff Hauswald, that I wanted to find more real-life opportunities for my KACC students. We have a restaurant called ‘Glass Canopy’ as part of our career center that is open to the public. However, the restaurant is still inside a school building, and people act differently inside a school than they would in a normal restaurant. What I really wanted was a student-run venture that would be more authentic to the world outside our campus.
Apparently, my superintendent was listening, and he took my idea seriously. In August 2012, I was asked to visit Dr. Hauswald’s office, and he took me on a field trip to downtown Kokomo and we stopped in front of an older building that had been recently renovated. The building, which had once housed a candy store, was serving as a residence hall for our high school International students from around the world. As we entered the building, I saw an amazing storefront, just as Dr. Hauswald surprised me and said, ”Welcome to your new candy/pastry store!” I couldn’t believe he was serious!
In October 2012, the KACC students opened the "Kokomo Confectioners’ Company," a candy store/pastry shop, where everything in the store is made by students (except our bulk candies). The shop is student-run and opens after school hours Mondays, Tuesdays, and Thursdays from 3:00-6:00pm. We also open on select Wednesdays from 4:00-7:00pm, and also participate in the community’s downtown First Friday event each month from 5:30-9:00pm. Each and every student in the baking and pastry class works at the shop, and the KACC students learn costing, marketing, and even what to create based on their customer base.
I must commend these students for working unbelievably hard at advertising their store, while showing off their culinary talents to our community. Our students have created ads for our local radio stations and posted signs throughout downtown Kokomo. Our shop is located in downtown Kokomo, which is approximately 5 miles from our career center campus. I cannot think of a better way to teach students real life than with a real, live, working store. We continue to search for creative ideas so we can teach real-life experiences as we seek the very best learning opportunities for our KACC students.
Indiana ACTE President
Culinary Arts/Baking Pastry Instructor
Kokomo Area Career Center (KACC)