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Paws that refreshes

Hungry folks in the small town of Filer, Idaho, need to look no further than their local high school for a good meal at a great price. But reservations are a must.

Fifteen juniors and seniors who make up Darlene Annen's food-service class run a restaurant—named after the 450-student Filer High School's wildcat mascot—called Paws Café, complete with tablecloths, napkins, centerpieces, a little candlelight, and the soft strummings of guitar player Jon Albertson, a teacher who volunteers there regularly.

The establishment is open every other week on a Wednesday or Thursday, depending on the school's schedule and holidays. "Our schedule is flexible," Ms. Annen noted.

Students oversee every detail, she said, ranging from menu preparation to cooking to serving guests and cleaning up.

Paws, which seats 24 people, feeds regulars who include teachers, parents, grandparents, and even members of the local school board. "We are usually booked several weeks in advance," Ms. Annen said.

The menu varies according to the theme the students choose for the week. This month, the cafe is decked out for the Christmas holidays, and the menu includes baked ham, twice-baked potatoes, green-bean casserole, stuffed tomatoes, Parmesan breadsticks in the shape of candy canes, cherries jubilee served flaming, and sugar cookies. A full meal costs patrons just $5.

Money to set up the café and convert the classroom came largely from a $10,000 grant from the Idaho Department of Education's division of professional-technical education. The money supplied a commercial dishwasher and mixer, plates, silverware, glasses, and cups.

Students participating in the program receive six credit hours in culinary arts and six credit hours in business at the College of Southern Idaho, a two-year school six miles from Filer.

Ms. Annen, a 33-year classroom veteran who teaches family-consumer sciences, originally got the idea to open a cafe after attending a school-to-work conference where she learned about other schools with similar projects.

She attributes most of Paws' success to support from school administrators. "That helps a whole lot," she said. "If you don't have all those people behind you, it doesn't work."

—Michelle Galley

Vol. 19, Issue 16, Page 3

Published in Print: December 15, 1999, as Take Note

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