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Lowe's Heroes Kitchen Effort Helps Students Overcome
Lowe's Heroes Kitchen Effort Helps Students Overcome
Posted on 11/13/2020
A new learning kitchen at North Buncombe High will benefit differently-abled students for years to come.Featured Photos: 1. NBHS Special Services teacher Mr. Ryan Rotundo (right) stands with former students and Lowe's employee Nick (left) as the the new Occupational Course of Study learning kitchen is installed on Nov. 4, 2020. 2. Blackhawk graduate Nick wires an appliance for the new NBHS learning kitchen. 3. The Lowe's Heroes crew from Weaverville Lowe's installs the new NBHS learning kitchen.

By: Benjamin Rickert
BCS Communications Dept.

A newly remodeled learning kitchen at North Buncombe High School will train differently-abled students in life skills for years to come thanks to the efforts of the Weaverville Lowe’s Home Improvement store and a former student. This month, a Lowe’s Heroes volunteer crew worked to replace cupboards, counter tops, and appliances in a classroom kitchen overseen by Special Services teacher Mr. Ryan Rotundo. The upgrade expands hands-on learning opportunities for students and enables the launch of a school coffee shop for the Occupational Course of Study (OCS) learning track.

Blackhawk graduate Nick wires an appliance for the new NBHS learning kitchen.“I wired the stove, put the stove in, and put all of the cabinets in,” said Nick, a North Buncombe High graduate and Lowe’s employee. “It’s my old school house. It feels good and makes a story I can tell.”

“It’s very full circle to be able to have a former student able to help out and give back to the school,” Rotundo added. “I can’t take credit for what Nick has accomplished, but that’s one of the joys of teaching — getting to see your students being successful and really achieving their own goals.”

In North Carolina, the OCS helps students with challenges gain the skills needed for successful employment and adult living. In Buncombe County high schools, students like Nick follow a four-year curriculum that progressively introduces responsibility and independence. In grades 9 and 10, OCS students earn a total of 150 “school-based enterprise hours,” meaning they work within the walls of their high schools, such as in a coffee shop or school store. In 11th grade, students earn 225 internship hours in local workplaces that align with their interests. As high school seniors, the students work 225 paid hours of employment in community businesses. Additionally, they learn about the responsibilities and functions of the home, including cooking, appliance use, and more. By the time they graduate, students have hundreds of hours of experience building the skills needed to succeed on their own.

“The work in the kitchen is supporting our newest school-based enterprise, an in-house coffee shop,” explained Rotundo. “It’s a place for teacher and staff members to get a warm cup of joe and have some fellowship. I think this is going to be a great way to draw people into more of what the Occupational Course of Study is doing throughout the year and highlight what our students are capable of.”

The Lowe's Heroes crew from Weaverville Lowe's installs the new NBHS learning kitchen.Mr. Rotundo is grateful to Nick and the other Lowe’s Heroes for making the project a reality. He described the kitchen updates as “a long time coming” and explained his sister used the original OCS kitchen at North Buncombe until she graduated in 2003. He’s also proud of the difference that the OCS has made for many students over the years, including his sister and former student Nick.

“One of the things we talk a lot about in the OCS are employability skills: ‘What are the skillsets and character traits of an OCS student?’” Rotundo said. “Without even knowing those traits, both of Nick’s managers at Lowe’s began talking about his dependability, honesty, and integrity. To me it was really cool to hear, and a reflection of what we’ve worked on in the program.”

When the kitchen is finished later in November, Rotundo plans to celebrate with a small, physically distanced ribbon cutting ceremony.

Buncombe County Schools is in the process of reviewing its website to ensure compliance with Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act and Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act. Buncombe County Schools does not discriminate on the basis of sex in its education programs or activities and is required by Title IX of the Education Amendments Act of 1972 and federal regulations to not discriminate in such a manner. This requirement extends to admission and employment. Inquiries about the application of Title IX and its implementing federal regulations may be referred to the Title IX Coordinator and/or the Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights in the Office for Civil Rights at the U.S. Department of Education. The Title IX Coordinator's contact information is: Shanon Martin,, 828-255-5918, 175 Bingham Road, Asheville, NC 28806.

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