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Colton Booster Club awards program $3,000 after high school junior Dominic Combest's presentation.

Colton Booster Club is a nonprofit group that supports Colton School District students, promotes parent and community involvement and raises funds to support activities of the community's youth.

At the club's recent meeting, Colton High School junior Dominic Combest, teacher assistant for the culinary arts program, came to the board to ask for funding to update campus kitchens.

COURTESY PHOTO - CHS junior Dominic Combest requests and receives $3,000 in funding from Colton Boosters for the culinary arts program.

Combest requested $3,000 for the program, pointing out the need for new pots, pans and utensils and explaining that much of the equipment in use in classrooms was outdated and broken and could present safety issues.

The requested funds would purchase four sets of "kitchen kits." Each set includes five pans and three pots, all with lids and guaranteed for seven to 10 years. The kits also include measuring cups and spoons, towels and hot pads.

The plan is to order the kits in four different colors. Combest said there are four cohorts in the culinary classroom, and one color of cooking equipment would be assigned to each kitchen to suppress COVID-19 spread and help with kitchen organization. Combest said the $3,000 would also purchase a digital scale, food thermometer, a blender and a food processor.

"These will help to expand culinary skills in ways we could not do before," Combest said.

In an email, culinary arts and health teacher Erin Lundy said the culinary classroom is one large room that allows for classroom set-up at one end and five kitchen areas, each with a stove, sink and storage area, at the other end. Students have assigned groups and kitchens, and each group is responsible for maintaining their kitchen and its equipment. The groups share the pantry, refrigerators and freezers.

"I have been looking to update the equipment for the class since 2019," Lundy said. "This past year really put me behind in purchasing supplies. Dominic has been aware of the need for new equipment first-hand. He has been a student of mine for the past two years and is now my teacher's assistant. The first day back, Dominic asked me if I wanted him to work on a proposal to present to the Boosters for funding for new equipment. I was thrilled with his motivation and willingness to take on this endeavor.

"Together we discussed equipment needs, checked pricing and came to decisions on what our priorities were. It was very helpful to have a student perspective, and that is how we decided on color-coding the kitchen equipment. It will be helpful in keeping the kitchens stocked and organized."

There are no competitions for culinary arts this year per COVID-19 protocols, but Lundy is keeping the students motivated.

"Ms. Lundy is such a nice teacher. We have both structure and creativity; you cook and have fun and you cook and learn," Combest said. "I have even out-cooked my mom on occasion — ask her about the filet."

Combest tells the story about last year's (pre-COVID-19) baking competition in which his group had a cupcake batter fail, but because they had been encouraged to be creative, they adjusted ingredients and ended up winning the contest.

"The hospitality industry has been hit extremely hard this past year," Lundy said. "It has caused everyone, from professionals to students, to do what they do best and be creative. I am confident that the industry will come roaring back even stronger, and I want my students to be ready to step into those new opportunities. Culinary is not just about teaching those interested in pursuing it as a profession, but even more importantly about teaching life skills. We all eat and are concerned about health and money. Culinary helps build the skills to foster lifelong health and eating well."

Combest is not just a culinary arts TA, Lundy noted; he is an excellent all-around student, who as a junior is taking college-credit classes. He says he loves history and is a "math- and science-leaning" student. Moreover, he is the Viking football quarterback and plays the power forward position on the school's varsity basketball team.

He also has another project set for next year: he hopes to start a golf club at Colton High. He has talked to other students who are interested and will be presenting the idea to Principal Grant Hayball. Combest is part of the landscape crew at Arrowhead Golf Course.

After graduation, he plans to join the United States Air Force and hopes to become part of the physicist/nuclear engineer program.

The Booster Club's board of directors, inspired by Combest's presentation, awarded the $3,000 to the culinary program.

"I am very lucky to have such an amazing young man as a TA," Lundy said. "I see great things ahead for his future. I am also very thankful to the Colton Boosters for helping keep our culinary program thriving."

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