Home > From cooking to gardening: High Road School of Cecil County student’s get hands-on experience

From Cooking to Gardening

Recognizing the diverse interests and potential career paths for students, staff at the High Road School of Cecil County developed the Advanced Trades Academy (ATA) program. Launched at the start of the 2023-2024 school year, the ATA combines the traditional rotation model of the High Road program with a new real-world, hands-on approach to learning important trade skills.  

Gaining Real-World Trade Skills

Working in conjunction with Cecil County Public Schools, school staff identified and selected six students to participate in the pilot ATA classroom where they work on their traditional academics while also gaining skills in the culinary arts and horticulture. Students will earn high school credits, as well as a ProStart certification in culinary from the National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation or a certification in horticulture. As part of the program, students have the chance to venture off campus for field trips to area businesses including local nurseries. They put their skills to use around the school with landscaping jobs like helping plant flowers and preparing meals for events. 

“We created the ATA program to give our students the opportunity to develop and leave with skills in a trade,” said Marc DiPasquale Jr., senior director, High Road School of Cecil County. “These students, who had a history of struggling to engage in school and attendance issues, all have shown tremendous progress in coming to school and putting significant effort into their work.” 

Students participate in their traditional core academics and electives during the first part of each day (Monday-Friday), earning their credits and meeting their seat times. Then on Mondays and Wednesdays, they roll up their sleeves for culinary arts and horticulture on Tuesdays and Thursdays. 

Cecil County’s rural landscape offers a great environment for the horticulture classes, where students learn about greenhouses, gardening, lawn care and maintenance and nursery skills for future career prospects – and to be a resource to their community. For the culinary program they focus on sustainability, food safety, service, growing food as well as preparation.  

Spicing Up Their Résumé

In the spring, the students will not only learn how to grow their own food, but will bring those fruits and vegetables into the kitchen and prepare a meal. Taking their lessons outside the classroom, they will also have the opportunity to partner with some of the local soup kitchens, practicing their skills while helping people experiencing homelessness. 

“My goal is ultimately when they make it through this program and they get that piece of paper that gives them that certification, they have learned news skills that will be beneficial to them in an employment opportunity outside of school,” he said. 

High Road School of Cecil County

The High Road School of Cecil County is a non-public facility that services Cecil County Public Schools. The school is a Type I full day and partial day special education and related services program for students with autism, emotional disability, intellectual disability, multiple disabilities, and other health impairments in elementary school (Grades 1 through 8) and secondary school (Grades 9 through 12). The goal of the program is to return students to their home-school when possible. Otherwise, the staff work with students to achieve graduation through the school with a diploma from their local high school.