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Twelve weeks of real-life experience came to an end this week for 12 Niagara Falls High School students who participated in the Food Pathways program as part of the Niagara Falls Local Food Action Plan.

The program, coordinated through Field & Fork network used curriculum developed by Niagara University’s Global Tourism Institute and concluded with a lunch at the TreC Center on Thursday.

The students learned about technical aspects of the food system as well as the soft skills needed to get and hold a job.

Some of the sites visited included DiCamillos Bakery, Johnnie Ryan’s Beverages, Arrowhead Springs Vineyard, Becker Farms and Rich Products. The graduation ceremony of sorts was held at the TreC Center where students sat with mentors with whom they were paired because of a particular shared interest.

Tom Lowe is Niagara Falls Local Food Action Plan Project Director for Field & Fork

“Everywhere we went, the speakers asked the students ‘what do you want to be when you grow up?’ ” Lowe said. At first it seemed trite. Something changed along the way.

“As it went on, answers evolved,” Lowe said. “To see that evolution was kind of exciting.”

Francesca DiCamillo said she enrolled in the program without a great sense of direction.

“I appreciated getting to know all the businesses because it’s important to support small businesses rather than big ones” she said.

Niagara Falls School Superintendent Mark Laurrie made a surprise appearance and looked around the room to see not only current students but former ones.

“This is the way we are going to change things,” he said. “Through you to someone next to you.”

One of the familiar faces he saw was that of ShaTaura Holland, a Niagara Falls High School graduate who was there when he was principal and today runs KCARMA NY apparel. KCARMA is an acronym for “keeping character respecting morals always.”

She looked across the gathered students with envy.

“I wish that we had a program like this when I was in school,” she said. “To teach about credit, to teach about business, how to pay bills, it is really a stepping stone to reality.”

One of Holland’s successes so far was selling hoodies to Falls students touring historical Black Colleges and Universities.

John Osberg, a Niagara Falls native was there as a mentor representing his business, Power of Ozmosis Consulting. He offered one brief piece of advice to the students.

“Of yourself, and all those around you, remove judgment and give grace” he said.

Original Story in the Niagara Gazette

Written by Joe Genco