Culinary students question volunteer role

Some NSCC students are upset they will be ripping tickets not cooking food at the Canada Games.

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Culinary arts students Alex Seminick and James Nolet won't be bringing their kitchen skills when they volunteer at the Canada Games. (Photo: Lauren Naish).

Every week first year NSCC culinary student Alex Seminick comes to class to cook, bake and prepare food. But on Feb. 11, Seminick won't be in the kitchen. As a Canada Games volunteer he will be ripping tickets, directing people to their seats and providing first aid.

Seminick and his classmates knew they would have to complete volunteer hours to graduate, but they aren't completely thrilled about their volunteer roles at the games.

James Nolet is one of Seminick's classmates. He doesn't see why culinary students should be spending their volunteer hours doing menial tasks in the stands.

"If it's ripping tickets and things like that, I don't see why it's in our curriculum," said Nolet.

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Boulangerie volunteers pictured from left to right; Lisa Brow, Hollie Davis, Caitlin Carson and Sarah Moonshine. (Photo: Lauren Naish).


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NSCC Students will be volunteering at 12 of the 13 Canada Games venues pictured here.

Nolet says he would much rather be doing something in the kitchen to contribute.

"They really just threw it in our face," he said. "They said you are going to have to volunteer and this is what you are going to be doing."

A volunteer opportunity

Nolet and Seminick found out they would be volunteering at the Canada Games last semester when the head of the tourism program addressed their class.

Mary Dempsey is a faculty member of the tourism management program at NSCC. She was part of the initial fight to get the Canada Games in the province and one of the people who suggested NSCC students become involved.

"I can't imagine we'd give up the opportunity for our students to take part in this and go out into the public on something like the Canada Games which is a real Canadian tradition," said Dempsey. "It's a once in a lifetime opportunity."

Volunteering isn't new to NSCC students. Tourism students volunteer regularly in their field and the culinary students volunteer their skills to banquets and staff dinners throughout the year.

The volunteer hours don't give students credit, but are required to graduate. This ‘service learning' portion of their program teaches student how to serve their community.

Once the tourism department had agreed, Dempsey suggested the culinary arts group jump on board with the Canada Games.

"Nowadays our culinary people need to learn how to deal with the public, problem solving and those types of things," said Dempsey.

"The trend is now that your chef doesn't just cook, your chef comes out into the dining room and speaks with customers," she said. "Now we have greater expectations. They need to learn customer service and to be comfortable."

Seminick says he is upset by the way the university approached his class.

"The thing that really got me in the first place was that they made it seem like we were all just terribly socially awkward people, just a stereotype about chefs I guess," said Seminick.

He understands why the tourism students would be involved, but he doesn't really buy the connection to the culinary class.

Experience for the résumé

However, the students in the boulanger and baking arts program will be volunteering in a way that is closely related to their trade. They will be baking bread for the athletes.

Sarah Moonshine is in the one-year baking program. She says they make a lot of breads that go to charities such as Feed Nova Scotia, and events like this.

"It's really good for our portfolio and really good work experience to be able to pump out that much bread," said Moonshine, "so, it's definitely good for our resumes."

Katelyn Rice is a first year tourism student. She feels this kind of volunteering speaks so much to the industry she is training to be a part of. Regardless of their program Rice says the Canada Games experience will refine students' customer service skills.

Rice is excited to contribute to the event, catch some of the sports and improve her skills. She is volunteering at an information booth at the new Canada Games Centre in Halifax West.

The NSCC students will be putting in 28 hours of volunteer service in 12 of the 13 venues around HRM during the Canada Games events.

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