2022 Grants Challenge

High School Career Exploration Pilot Program

Common Threads is partnering with Susan Miller Dorsey High School to pilot a new career exploration program to introduce 9-12th grade students to nutrition related healthcare careers. Students will gain nutrition knowledge and culinary skills through hands-on classes and will be exposed to different career paths through job shadowing and internships. Traditional high school culinary education programs focus on careers in the culinary industry. Our program seeks to bridge a gap between culinary education and healthcare training.


What is the primary issue area that your application will impact?

Income Inequality

In which areas of Los Angeles will you be directly working?

County of Los Angeles

In what stage of innovation is this project, program, or initiative?

Pilot or new project, program, or initiative

What is your understanding of the issue that you are seeking to address?

Common Threads is a grassroots organization, designing programs to meet community needs. Many partners have suggested that many high school students, especially in low-income communities, are responsible in-full or in-part for preparing meals for their households. As of 2019, nearly 80% of Dorsey High students were considered low-income. Our High School Career Exploration was designed to address the health and income needs of the Dorsey Community. The program helps students develop nutrition knowledge and healthy cooking skills for immediate use in their household. Additionally, we are introducing these students to well-paying careers in the healthcare industry through internships and job shadowing. All-time highs of diet-related diseases, especially in low-income communities, combined with staffing shortages in the healthcare industry, puts us at the brink of a national health crisis and we are empowering the next generation to reverse this trend.

Describe the project, program, or initiative this grant will support to address the issue.

The Common Threads High School Career Exploration Pilot Program focuses on the exploration of nutrition-centric careers in healthcare combined with nutrition education and healthy cooking skills. The program aims to: ● Build personal nutrition and culinary skills through hands-on cooking classes; ● Expose students to nutrition related healthcare careers through job shadowing and internships; and ● Foster health communication skills as HS students co-teach health-centric lessons to elementary and middle school students. Traditionally, HS culinary education in the United States has focused on workplace readiness for the culinary industry. However, CT’s program seeks to bridge what we view as a gap between culinary education and healthcare training. There is a perfect storm of trends that is amplifying the need for youth to be equipped with nutrition knowledge, and understand the relationship between diet and personal health. Additionally, Common Threads’ conversations with partners suggest that many high school students are responsible for preparing food for their households. We believe that skill-based culinary programs for HS youth can help students develop cooking skills, which are life skills they can apply immediately in their households. Furthermore, with exposure to career pathways in healthcare that require nutrition knowledge, HS youth may be primed as future healthcare professionals.

Describe how Los Angeles County will be different if your work is successful.

Health related diseases such as diabetes and obesity are at all-time highs with marginalized and low-income communities disproportionately suffering from these diseases. These families on average consume less fresh vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and dairy. There's a belief that healthy eating is expensive or time consuming. If successful, this program will equip high school students with nutrition and healthy living knowledge, and teach them healthy cooking skills they can rely on all their lives. The internship portion will help develop them into leaders, working with our Small Bites program to pass on their newly gained knowledge and skills younger students. They will be introduced to nutrition-related careers, paving the way to well-paying careers and becoming health leaders in their community.

What evidence do you have that this project, program, or initiative is or will be successful, and how will you define and measure success?

Evaluation will be critical to the success of this pilot and will include a series of focus groups with high school students to amplify their voices, interests, and feedback about their program experiences, all of which will be used in the subsequent development and improvement of this program. Evaluation will also focus on measuring improvements in students’ social emotional skills like teamwork and leadership. Success will be measured against anticipated first year outputs: ● 45 high school students served ● 150 3rd-5th graders impacted through internship ● 5,200 hours of programming ● 4,680 meals and snacks served ● 750 internship hours Success will also measure improvements in: ● Knowledge of nutrition and healthy eating ● Cultural awareness and appreciation of global recipes and cultures ● Self-efficacy around cooking through skill building ● Job readiness and skill-building through participation in internship ● More outcomes may be added based on preliminary class observations

Approximately how many people will be impacted by this project, program, or initiative?

Direct Impact: 30

Indirect Impact: 100