Hosley is a University of Georgia graduate who worked in catering and retail prior to joining TFA.
October 11, 2016
By Hubert Tate, The Impact Blog
JONESBORO—Parmesan pork stroganoff over egg noodles is the featured dish during a September meeting of the culinary arts club at Mundy’s Mills High school in Clayton County. About 25 students show up every Tuesday, since the beginning of the 2016-2017 school year, to learn from 2015 Teach For America – Metro Atlanta corps member Kenneth Hosley. The students note the club offers them the opportunity to potentially tap into a new skill after completing high school, while encouraging them to maintain good behavior and grades.
“Extracurricular activities are a privilege and I know that. So if my grades were to slip, I probably wouldn’t be a part of this program,” said eleventh grader Kandice Estrella, who loves cooking and participates in the program to enhance her college applications. “It really helps because [the club] is something I can put on my transcripts and I know a lot of colleges like to see a well-rounded student.”
Hosley, a University of Georgia graduate who worked in catering and retail prior to joining TFA, started the club after speaking with several students who expressed an interest in culinary arts post-graduation. Since the school did not offer any after school activity related to cooking, Hosley got approval from his principal to start the club.
“I figured why not stay after school for this [2016-2017] year and teach the basics that I knew, from what I learned in the kitchen,” said Hosley.
But there was a problem: the school had no supplies. So with affirmation from the school’s administration, Hosley launched a GoFundMe online fundraising campaign. He initially aimed to raise a thousand dollars, but reached donations over $4000. He even got support from local chefs and restauranteurs from across Metro Atlanta. Hosley says his experience through TFA has helped form the foundation for his work.
“It has been totally worth it,” said Hosley.
Eleventh grader Ronald Bivens also participates in the club and wants to own a business after completing high school. He has always had an interest in cooking, but wanted more training to enhance his skills.
So when Hosley launched the after school program, Bivens knew it was a perfect fit for his career goals. He notes Hosley is very detailed in his approach to navigating the kitchen.
“I’ve learned to always wash your hands”, Bivens says jokingly. “But I’ve also learned how to make good food. [Meals] can be cheap and you can turn it into a real art piece. I’m ready to learn more.”
Bivens adds he wishes the club had been around during his ninth and tenth-grade years, however, he is using the last two years of high school to learn as much as he can.
“I really appreciate what [Mr. Hosley] does for us,” said Bivens.
A similar sentiment is shared by parent Chwanda Nixon, whose daughter is in the program. In addition to the club adding knowledge to students’ skillsets, Nixon also states adamantly that the club is another tool and opportunity to help students.
“They get into more trouble just finding something to do. So when the school is able to provide these things, it’s just a wonderful thing,” said Nixon. “They need more activities to stay out of the streets and to learn more.”
This sentiment is consistent with much prior research, and is supported by the U. S. government’s interagency group for youth programs. Effective afterschool programs provide a safe learning environment for children of working parents, and also aids in raising academic performance, reducing risky experimenting with drugs/alcohol and deviant behavior, and reducing the risk of dropping out of school.
Hosley, who plans to continue teaching after his two-year corps commitment, stays reminded that it is through strong partnership with other educators at Mundy’s Mill that fuels his passion to see students succeed—a thought that has been a mainstay since first stepping foot on the campus.
“When I walked into the school, I knew I didn’t have the answers. I knew I wasn’t the one to come fix the system. I was one to come participate with teachers that had already been in the trenches trying to make this work,” said Hosley.
At this recent September meeting, students realize the recipe for pork stroganoff is tedious but simple. They also learn, nonetheless, that the recipe for success calls for hard work before, during and after school.
“Food is art. Food is life. Food is what we need,” said Bivens.