RAHWAY, NJ - Their dream is big…but so is its price tag. “For so long, I have envisioned myself traveling to the famous places I have only read about,” muses senior Olivier Pierre. “Thanks to the chance our Board of Ed has given us, I’ll be standing in front of the Eiffel Tower!”
Although the students’ hopes for actually visiting the City of Light in person have remained strong, the opportunity had always seemed to be just beyond their reach…until this year. Thanks to solid support from Rahway’s Board of Education and, especially, from Superintendent of Schools Dr. Patricia Camp, students learned that their dream could finally become a reality. A firm believer in the educational and social value of international travel, Dr. Camp was first to champion their cause. “Travel, both ‘local’ and international, is so beneficial to our students; they can learn another perspective on so many important issues.” She continues, “Travel can open their minds to other possibilities of living and working, which only adds to their problem-solving skills and experience.”
Appreciation for his superintendent’s dedication was enthusiastically offered by freshman Arya Abdollahi. “Dr. Camp’s perseverance and passion for education and hunger for breaking down walls and limitations is helping our French Club make our education more engaging and more relevant.”
The students were then quick to learn, however, that trips cost money. Although each would be paying for his or her own travel and accommodations, the cost per student would be far beyond an amount comfortable for most families. French teacher and trip organizer Rob Kinch made the decision that each student would be responsible for only $750 of the full fare cost and the rest would be raised through a series of fundraisers. On February 14 and 15, Rahway High School’s French Club held one of it’s largest and most successful fundraising events of the school year. “Le Brasserie Madison” opened its doors to both community and school district, offering an authentic French luncheon fare that would earn the respect of even the most discerning bistro chefs along the tree-lined Champs Élysées.
Attempting to broaden the scope of their culinary event (and, of course, to increase their revenue…after all, Paris had a high price ticket!), the aspiring world travelers decided to devote one day to delivering their taste tantalizing menu items directly to the doors of local businesses and government offices. Several weeks prior to the actual event, the young entrepreneurs were welcomed to an early morning Rahway Chamber of Commerce meeting where they were able to share their goal and ‘catering’ plans with the attendees, underscoring their appreciation with a homemade ‘Eiffel Tower’ shaped cookie presented to one and all.
On Valentine’s Day, piping hot orders of Boeuf Bourguignon and Quiche Florentine (among other authentic dishes) were delivered to the Mayor’s Office, the Tax Department, The City Clerk’s Office, the Rahway Arts and Business Partnership, the Rahway Public Library, SDI Industries, RSI Bank, and Applied Dynamic Solutions LLC, along with a host of other supportive downtown businesses and local homes.
Ms. Bernadette Maturo from SDI Industries was quick to send her thanks to the students expressing “how much we enjoyed our lunch today” adding, “…all the best to you on your mission to raise money for France!” Thanks arrived as well from Ms. Ann Marie Williams from City Hall Community Development enthusiastically offering, “It’s all delish!”
The following day was also wisely chosen by the student ‘restauranteurs’ as it was one of those special days when students were in school only until 12:30 and the teachers throughout the district stayed the remainder of the day for professional development meetings. “Our teachers have to eat,” junior Andrew Santacruz cleverly noted, “Why should they go out?!” It was then realized that, if the high school teachers had to lunch quickly before their meetings, so did the teachers in ALL the schools in the district! With that in mind and with the help of the principals from all the district grammar schools, orders were taken from each school including Rahway’s 7th and 8th grade Academy to be delivered immediately at the end of classes, thereby accommodating an entire school district, along with the Board of Ed.’s Central Office.
Under the sole guidance of the event’s gifted chef, Ms. Mary Mull, and thanks to flexible scheduling of club members and school facilities by Vice Principal Patricia Volino-Reinoso, French Club students worked feverishly both days in the high school’s Culinary Arts room to help prepare the cuisine and other accoutrements that would go to make their “Brasserie” a resounding success. With the assistance of RHS teachers and Ms. Susan Dilollo, parent to one of the future travelers, orders were delivered to each school while, under Ms. Mull’s watchful eye, student cooks and wait staff catered to every need of the high school faculty in the student cafeteria-turned-bistro, complete with the requisite soothing violin serenades by Strings teacher Sergei Panov.
RHS first year History teacher Michael Clark found the cuisine “astounding” while adding that the Mousse Au Chocolat “tasted like it belonged in a restaurant!” Mr. Clark, however, clearly summed up the sentiment of all who supported the students in their 2-day event. “The brasserie was a shining example of what our school community can offer. Seeing ALL the schools and local community come together to support the French Club’s goal with such generosity and caring was heartwarming.”
At some point, young adults learn that every dream comes with a price. Thanks to the understanding and caring support of the Rahway community and its dedicated educators, combined with the hard work and total personal commitment of its students, that price and the dream of its students may now be realized more easily.