Easter show’s student cafe a ticket to HSC success

Regional hospitality students gained essential work experience at the show and some even rubbed shoulders with royalty. Olivia Grey reports.

Two girls dressed in chefs uniform stand either side of the Education Minister in a kitchen Two girls dressed in chefs uniform stand either side of the Education Minister in a kitchen
Image: Master chefs: Finley High School students Amy Ventrella and Sophie Roe passed the pressure test when Education Minister Sarah Mitchell dropped in to see their work.

For most students, a visit to the Sydney Royal Easter Show is full of riding rollercoasters, animal encounters and shopping the showbags, but for 100 students from rural NSW, the show was their ticket to the Higher School Certificate.

In the student-run Rural Student Cafe, regional hospitality students from 12 schools undertook the essential work experience needed to gain their HSC while helping to cater to a crowd that, in many cases, was bigger than their hometowns.

All aspects of the cafe was run by students, from food preparation to front of house service, closely monitored by experts in the field to ensure the experience was as good for the students as it was for customers.

With the Easter Show attracting up to 80,000 visitors a day, it was all hands on deck to prepare and serve treats for their customers.

Monaro High School principal James Armitage made the 400-kilometre trek to Sydney Olympic Park by bus, helping give 10 students from Year 11 and 12 the experience of a lifetime.

“Students based in metropolitan Sydney often have many options to complete required work experience for subjects like hospitality, but in rural and remote areas, options are limited,” Mr Armitage said.

“The Rural Student Cafe program gave our students a unique opportunity and access to a really amazing experience they would not have otherwise had.

“Not only did they get to complete the work experience component of their hospitality course, they were also given the opportunity to be leaders, make decisions and mistakes, and experience what it’s like in the ‘real world’ workplace.”

In addition to catering for the public, the program also catered for the students’ individual needs, offering additional support to ensure it was inclusive for each and every student.

“Students who needed an extra hand were given it, and those who were more capable in particular areas were given space to succeed on their own. It has been incredibly valuable,” Mr Armitage said.

Monaro High School student, Liam Stewart, had the exciting opportunity to cook, clean, serve and learn at the Rural Student Café, and his experience could not have been more positive.

“The program was invaluable for a hospitality student. We were able to see the inner workings of a kitchen, and work at such a highly regarded establishment,”

“It was also an incredible opportunity to bond with peers outside of the context of school,” Liam said.

Liam is not only a superstar hospitality student, he is also the President of the Monaro High School Indigenous Education Cabinet, working to help organise NAIDOC Week and Close the Gap Day, as well as many other important initiatives within the school and local community.

A highlight for Liam was meeting Princess Anne, who put the Royal in the Royal Easter Show, when she visited the Rural Student Cafe.

“There were many nerves, however the Princess was lovely and very down to earth. It was so exciting to meet her, not only as a rural student but also as an Indigenous person, and it really solidified to me that my education is worth it,” he said.

On top of the royal special guest, the Café was visited by Minister for Education and Early Learning, Sarah Mitchell, who stopped by to catch a glimpse of the behind the scenes action.

“For our country students to have this opportunity is invaluable, and you could really feel their excitement. It was so special to be able to see them working so hard, and all of them displayed such amazing confidence, participating so enthusiastically in an area that many of them had no experience in,” Ms Mitchell said.

“The team behind the cafe including the chefs and hospitality professionals guiding students, the department staff supporting the initiative, the Easter Show team who made it possible and the school staff who brought the students along, have provided these students with such vital skills and experience, as well as wonderful memories of their trip to Sydney.”


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