A chef-prepared lunch awaited about 25 high school students in the Precollege Program. The menu included Caesar salad, baked chicken breast, potato, vegetable and cheesecake.

The students would have to work for their appetizing meal, however.

Phil McGuirk

Phil McGuirk

Before they could dig in at the Rendezvous classroom and restaurant at University of Wisconsin-Stout, the participants learned business dining etiquette: How to professionally introduce themselves, when to sit, how to sit and how to use a napkin, glassware and silverware.

Students listened intently to School of Hospitality Leadership professors Peter D’Souza and Phil McGuirk, conspicuous in their crisp white chef coats and hats in Heritage Hall.

Inteus Garza, who attends Wausau West High School, paid close attention. He works part-time as a dishwasher at a restaurant and hopes to move up soon to become a waiter. “In order to do that I have to learn,” he said.

Garza and other teenagers came to UW-Stout with another goal too. They hope to go to college for real. The Precollege Program is designed to help make that possible by exposing students to campus life, helping them academically and exploring a career path.

About 100 students from Wisconsin participated in three weeklong programs at UW-Stout July 7-13 and July 14-20. Each program focused on an academic area at UW-Stout. Food for Thought explored the university’s hospitality programs, including hotel, restaurant and tourism management. Design Your Future focused on graphic design and Masterpiece of Life on studio art.

students work on their writing skills at a laptop station

From left, Mirella Espino and Inteus Garza work on their writing skills.

The state Department of Public Instruction and Gear Up Program provide scholarships for high-achieving students from low-income environments to cover program costs for qualifying students.

Vickie Sanchez of Multicultural Student Services oversees the programs. “We are a hands-on institution, so they get to see our philosophy at Stout,” Sanchez said. “We’re hoping they can get a glimpse of what the Stout experience is like.”

Along with exploring hospitality, graphic design or art, students worked on academic skills with instructors, such as math, reading and writing. They also stayed in the residence halls, participated in group activities and took field trips.

Jeffrey Her, of Baldwin-Woodville High School, and Gaonang Lee, of Wausau East High School, especially appreciated receiving help writing their college application essays and enjoyed the social aspect of Food for Thought. “It’s been a fun week, and I’ve enjoyed meeting new people,” Her said.

Students pose with program adviser Sir Aaron Mason.

Students pose with program adviser Sir Aaron Mason.

Six UW-Stout students were small-group counselors and mentors. Sheenab Her said the program is an important stepping-stone for students who may need a little push to commit to college. “I want students to know that college is possible, and it pays off in the real world,” said Her, of Wausau, a junior majoring in food science at UW-Stout.

At a program recognition breakfast, D’Souza told students to believe in themselves. “Dream high and you will be successful. People may ask you, ‘Why go to a university?’ Why not? It will take you places, take you all over the world and make your life an adventure,” D’Souza said.

McGuirk told students to “have a dream, dream big. Love what you do. Happiness is the key to your success.”

Program staff

Along with Sanchez, UW-Stout Precollege staff were Jordan Clark, of Madison, student art assistant; Sir Aaron Mason, of Menomonie, adviser; Sandy Moua, adviser; and Bo Vang, of Menomonie, student assistant.

Other UW-Stout faculty who taught were Robert Fraher and Tamara Brantmeier from the School of Art and Design. In addition Rick Emerson from Educational Talent Search taught writing while Mike Hulett, an instructor at Menomonie High School, taught math.

Along with Sheenab Her, UW-Stout student counselors were Shadrack Masaki, of Farmington, Minn.; Ci Moua, of Schofield; Stephanie Pozuelos, of Faribault, Minn.; Hemlata Ramsamooj, of Menomonie; and Shoua Yang, of Holmen.

For more information about the Precollege Program, contact Sanchez at 715-232-1108 or go to the website.