“Come on, Chef Poole, you know I can’t afford to go to college.”
Those are not the words a high school culinary instructor wants to hear from one of his most promising senior culinary students, but unfortunately this is reality. Every year, without fail, many of my students do not attend college due to the simple fact that they do not have the money. Each year I watch many dedicated, inspiring, and intelligent students walk out of my classroom with a look of defeat on their faces because they have tried their hardest all year—and for what?
It truly was breaking my heart to have to witness this year after year, so I finally decided to do something about it.
As I was staring out at the ocean in the Outer Banks a couple summers ago, I thought to myself “There are SO many opportunities in our world, why can’t my kids have a fair shot at them?” Quickly thereafter, an idea popped into my head and that idea was CROP.
The CROP Foundation is an organization that allows students interested in the culinary/agriculture fields to further their education past high school through donations from the community that fund scholarships and internships. We raise funds by creating “pop-up” culinary events that are produced by students and guest chefs and take place in unique locations. These special dinners include creatively themed multi-course menus, and many of those attending share the same passions as CROP, and want to celebrate alongside visionary students and aid them in their journey to pursue a career in this diverse and dynamic field.
The ultimate goal of CROP, after all, is to further inform the public on the importance of education and to assist every student we can in reaching their utmost potential. While we are a very young foundation, the support we have received so far has amazed me. I wake up with a feeling of excitement for my students because now they have a better chance to realize their culinary career dreams.
So what does this mean for your community? Perhaps it means we need to think more creatively about how to assist, inspire, and support the ambitions of our youth, including those who may not be planning on attending four-year universities. Perhaps it also means that some of the issues young people face when it comes to college and career training affordability can be alleviated by their fellow community members. While it has been amazing to watch The CROP Foundation change lives in Delaware, I’ve been eager to collaborate with others interested in initiating similar programs, and ultimately expanding my foundation to my hometown in Norfolk. Grassroots-level change can be very powerful, and it starts with exploring new ways to tackle persistent challenges.
The community of Hampton Roads has welcomed us with open arms, and we would like to feed you back. The event this week is called Elementum, and it’s taking place at Toast. For Elementum we’re working with our “little chefs,” as I like to call them, from William Penn High School in Delaware, Tallwood High School, Virginia Beach Technical, and Career Center, and Poquoson High School.
It just feels like we’re home here in Norfolk. And seriously, Thursday will be a truly wonderful event. I hope you’ll come out and enjoy the elements while you support The CROP Foundation at one of our favorite places to celebrate – Toast.