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It won’t be long before you see a food trailer rolling around serving the community with Little Elm ISD’s name on it. Dr. Tony Tipton, director for Career & Technical Education and Cortney Clover, director for Special Populations announced the news Monday night at the Little Elm ISD Board of Trustees meeting. “This is such a big deal for us to be here in front of all of you sharing this important opportunity we are providing to our students,” said Tipton.
In 2011, Little Elm High School was home to Vynami Cafe, a functioning restaurant where Life Skills students gained real-world experience of budgeting a business, preparing and serving food to customers. “The group of students who were our high functioning Life Skills students could not run Vynami anymore because they were working on prerequisite skills for success after high school. We decided to close Vynami last school year,” said Clover. “The cafe was great. But we have to ask ourselves as educators, what can we do that is innovative and different to still offer inclusion for our Life Skills students, but on a job site.”
During a mid-winter conference last school year is when Clover and Tipton birthed the idea of a food trailer that would bring regular learners and Special Populations students in a culinary arts setting. “Once we had the idea, I told everyone about it without knowing how we were going to pay for it or how it would even work. We were both so excited about this idea,” said Tipton as he addressed the Board members.
The culinary arts four-year program will train students to become skillful managers of the new restaurant, TabLE, who can also be in charge of running LEHS's first ever food trailer, TabLE To Go, in the community. “Once our students get to a level of practicum, they are going to partner with disabled peers for community-based instruction from inside the food trailer,” said Tipton. “The trailer will go site-to-site, all around Little Elm, and will serve lunches in the community.”
The 18-foot food trailer is in production by Custom Made Trailers in Houston, known for making food trucks and trailers for Food Network stars.. “It’s going to be the Cadillac of food trailers, decked out with air conditioning, flat grill, two burner ranger, chargrill, freezer and refrigerator, a sire suppression system, a full graphics wrap and a gooseneck towing package for a truck we’re getting this August for CTE,” said Tipton.
But none of this would have been possible without the help of a budding new partnership between Little Elm ISD and Credit Union of Texas (CUTX). They have agreed to sponsor the trailer 100% after reviewing a business plan prepared for them by Little Elm High School business and marketing students. “We are beyond excited from the moment we heard about this opportunity,” said Ana Ortiz, Director of Business Development for CUTX. “It has been hard keeping this hush-hush because this is such a monumental moment that will impact the lives of so many students. It is great to be a part of this legacy,” she said.
(Superintendent Dr. Strike, CUTX Director of Business Development Ana Ortiz, CTE Director Dr. Tipton, Assistant Superintendent Ross Roberts)
CUTX is contributing $31,000, which will cover the entire cost for building the trailer and wrapping it with graphics. CUTX has committed to providing financial support for maintenance and additional new costs. CUTX has also created internships that will benefit LEHS business and marketing students.
TabLE To Go food trailer will be unveiled at the LEHS Chart Your Course Event November 1 at LEHS.