Doris Johnson Senior High School is preparing students for careers in the country’s tourism and hospitality industry. The school’s science laboratory, old, run-down, and infested with termites, has been transformed into a state-of-the-art industrial kitchen. Recently, the school officially commissioned the new facility during a ribbon cutting ceremony to the theme ‘We WORK Here…Kindling the Flame of Excellence’. Through a partnership with Nassau Hotel and Restaurant Supplies, the kitchen has been equipped with industrial stoves, sinks, refrigerators, freezers, a new exhaust system, air conditioning and grills. It is located in the ‘B’ Block at the northern end of the Prince Charles Drive campus.
The project, valued at approximately $150,000, was managed by the Ministry of Public Works’ technical team. Timothy Johnson, senior architect, said the Ministry completed the design, created the scope of works and administered the construction aspect of it. Seeta Roberts, former Department Head at the school said, “They converted the Science Lab into a Family and Consumer Science (FACS) kitchen for hospitality training. We worked on a layout best suited for the students and the space.” Students led the short ceremony held in the Hospitality room. Teachers, Ministry of Education officials and school administrators were on hand for the event. Among those participating were James Clarke, Principal; Sharon Ferguson, former Senior Education Officer and Pastor Larry Green, Maranatha Seventh-Day Adventist Church. The school’s band, led by Aaron Neely provided entertainment.
Raquel Turnquest, FACS Subject Officer, said the program, which encompasses Hospitality and Tourism studies, is in need of more investment. “We are thankful to the Government of The Bahamas for the investment made to Doris Johnson, but we do know that RM Bailey and Government High are schools that also need to be renovated in terms of the commercial kitchens. “The students in this program are the next generation of chefs that will be going into our hotels. Tourism is our number one product so we definitely want that next generation of chefs to be well resourced, to have the knowledge and skills to enter the job market straight out of high school. That is something that we are shooting for,” she said.
Keyshan Bastian, Assistant Director, Career and Technical Education thanked the teachers for their patience and energy and acknowledged Mrs. Ferguson for her contribution to the new facility. She said she told the students that they have been “blessed” beyond their imagination. “If you could imagine the blood, sweat and tears that went in to getting that lab next door for you. It’s unbelievable. “Whenever you go into that kitchen, remember that you are responsible for the investment that’s been entrusted to you so do so wisely.” The smartly clad students displayed their skills throughout the event but more so during the reception that followed. Not only were they greeters, but they also served the food that they prepared under the guidance of Mrs. Roberts and Mr. Butler, Culinary teacher for Hospitality Training. The day’s menu included finger-foods: fruit, shrimp and chicken kabobs; zucchini, potato and banana bread, pinwheels, conch fritters and coconut tart.
About a third of the school’s 800 plus population are enrolled in the program. Mrs. Roberts said the FACS and Hospitality Training program is “over-subscribed”. “We have them for options and electives. Because of the design of the program you get a bit of practical and you get a bit of theory. If you are having academic challenges you are able to balance it off with the practical,” she said. “The children who eventually go to the hotel to work or go to university to do culinary arts would already have a first-hand experience of industrial equipment. They won’t go into a brand new environment that they are not familiar with. The school’s teacher-of-the-year 2019-2021, Edrica Ferguson, along with Mrs. Ferguson, clipped the blue and gold ribbon signifying the official commissioning and Pastor Green blessed the kitchen.