Billy Gaylor spent two years working over hot stoves and dishwashers. But he didn't do it to complete a household chore or to feed his family.
The 2004 Evans High School graduate worked to become the first Columbia County student to earn the National Restaurant Association Certification.
ProStart participant Billy Gaylor, of Martinez, prepares a dinner of grilled steaks, garlic mashed potatoes, sauteed asparagus and stuffed tomatoes for his parents.
Photo by Jim Blaylock
"It's a program they have for ProStart (culinary arts course)," said the 18-year-old, who works as the assistant manager of the Family Dollar on Walton Way in Augusta. "It's all on food safety, preparation. It's all about the food industry."
In order to qualify for the certification, Gaylor had to pass the ProStart I and II tests, and complete a 400-hour internship in two years working in the food services industry.
While in high school, Gaylor worked for six months as a dishwasher at a WifeSaver restaurant and the past 1 years as a chef at the Augusta Country Club.
"I prepared all of the sandwiches and fried food and grilled food," he said.
The ProStart program, which started in 1996, helps to establish career choices for students in their junior and senior years of high school.
"The National Restaurant Association said that the high schools and colleges were not putting out sufficient people to work in the management positions in the restaurant business," said Laotha Carswell, the family and consumer sciences teacher at Evans High School.
"What they wanted to do was have a program in high schools that would put students out on jobs and let them earn what they called the first-level certificate."
Gaylor plans to attend Georgia Military College in January and then transfer to a culinary academy. His ultimate goal is to open his own restaurant.
The certification will help in any future endeavors in the restaurant industry, Carswell said.
"When they finish this they can take this to any restaurant or any food service industry and they are one step above everyone else that just walks in from the street," she said. "They already know about safety. They already know knife skills. They already know about customer service."
Achieving the certification requires a lot of time that many students find too demanding, Carswell said.
Gaylor hopes his achievement will inspire other students to make the effort.
"What I did opens the door for all these other students to see it can be done," he said. "Maybe they'll pursue it a little bit more and go after it."
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