Why We’re Thankful for CPS’ David Blackmon

November 17, 2015

It’s the time of year to give thanks, and here at Healthy Schools Campaign, we’re thankful for our partners that help us move our work forward both in Chicago and nationally.

At our 9th annual Cooking up Change Chicago last month, we honored David Blackmon with an award for his years of outstanding leadership and support of Cooking up Change.

David is the Senior Program Coordinator of Culinary Arts, Career and Technical Education (CTE) at Chicago Public Schools (CPS). All of the schools that participate in our Cooking up Change Chicago healthy cooking contest are CPS schools that have culinary arts programs under David’s leadership.

And it’s a large program. More than 1,650 students in 20 CPS schools are enrolled in the CTE culinary arts program. “The CTE culinary arts program gives high school students the chance to get a head start on preparing for college and a career,” says David. “Culinary arts students participate in hands-on training in real state-of-the-art industrial kitchens and gain real world experience through job shadows and internships.” To date, CPS CTE Culinary students have earned more than $14 million in college scholarships and more than 7,000 industry certifications.

David’s support of Cooking up Change extends beyond the school kitchens. Last year, David accompanied the winning team from Marshall Metro High School to theIllinois State Board of Education and to Washington, D.C. He hopes to increase these types of experiences for students moving forward.

That’s because David understands the Cooking up Change program is about much more than the delicious school meals the students produce. It’s about elevating student voices in the conversation about healthy school food. “Students need to be empowered to know that they are ultimately the customer,” he says. “If you can get enough students to demand change, it will happen.”

Our Cooking up Change Chicago program would not be what it is today without David’s leadership. We are so grateful for his ongoing support of Cooking up Change and Healthy Schools Campaign.