One of my favorite things is discovering new sites in Macomb County that I never knew existed. I recently went to Rising Star Academy in Center Line assuming it was a typical elementary or middle school. What I found inside was extraordinary. This is definitely no regular school.
Rising Star, established in September 2013 provides education for special needs students 18 to 26 years old. But the learning the students are part of isn’t conventional. Mark Prentiss, who heads the school, is an ex-executive chef who teaches the students everyday life skills through cooking and hospitality classes.
The school property boasts five acres of land from which the students grow their own vegetables to be used in cooking class. They also have 12 chickens on the property where the students use the eggs the chickens produce for the food created in class. Another room in the school is set up just like a hotel – the students are then taught different aspects of the hospitality industry where they learn how to clean the room and do laundry so they can apply those skills to the real world. Last year, Rising Star was able to connect its first student with a real world job at BW3’s in Mount Clemens.
“We just want to educate kids, get students employed and give them opportunities,” said Prentiss. “We believe food is a driving force to make our students successful.”
The school was also a great backdrop for what brought me to Rising Star that day – a meeting for a local organization called the Detroit Food & Ag Network, or DFAN. DFAN’s purpose is to place focus on the importance food has in local economy.
Food has more meaning behind it than just the nutrition and fuel we provide for our bodies. Food has an obvious impact on each of us personally, but what about economically?
The members of the group, which include representatives from Wayne, Oakland and Macomb counties, the Michigan Department of Agriculture, as well as various restaurateurs from all over the metro Detroit area, met that day to network and update themselves on new legislation that had passed at the state level that affects the food industry. Mini grants were also given out to help businesses continue to develop and invest locally.
“We’ve created our storyline around the importance of food systems,” said Dan Carmondy, with the Eastern Market Corporation and DFAN member. “We raise the profile of food and how important it is to the economy.”
I walked away from Rising Star Academy certainly being more educated than I was before. Not only did I learn about this school’s unique purpose, but left with some additional food for thought.
Sarah Cormier works for the Macomb County Executive Office, often writing about interesting activities taking place in Macomb County.