- Some are honor roll students who will go on to college, while others
will graduate from the Gila River Indian Community high school and
likely seek restaurant jobs.
But the work experience gained behind
the fast-food counters at the Ira H. Hayes Memorial Applied Learning
Center's restaurant could help those interested in restaurant work
advance beyond minimum-wage jobs, school officials say.
"By the time they graduate, they'll
have the experience to enter (restaurant) management-trainee programs
at casinos or the resorts being built in the area," said Robert
Giersberg, the school's food-service manager. "So their earning
potential and opportunities for advancement will significantly increase."
Launched in April, the school's applied-learning
restaurant program has about two dozen students. The venture marks
the first partnership between an Arizona high school and Piccadilly
Circus Pizza. The Iowa-based restaurant chain operates 42 Arizona
restaurants, 15 of them on reservations, said Jim Corallo, a spokesman
for Piccadilly Circus.
Students earn class credit and $6 an hour
to work at the cafe. They work a maximum of 20 hours a week at the
restaurant, which operates from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m.
More than 100 students, 40 staff members
and about a dozen Gila River Indian Community members flock daily
to the school's Soaring Eagle Restaurant featuring Piccadilly Circus
Pizza. The cafe features $2.50 hot meals, subs and pizza.
The charter school entered into a one-year
licensing agreement with Piccadilly, which trains the students,
provides its ingredients and use of its name, Giersberg said.
The restaurant takes in about $600 daily,
half of that from the government because about 92 percent of the
school's 150 students qualify for free lunch, he added.
The program will cost the school about
$80,000, including cost of restaurant equipment bought from Piccadilly.
The school is attempting to raise the
funds through state grants and donations, Giersberg said.
Hayes opened in September as part of the
Casa Blanca Schools system. The school wants to offer other applied-learning
programs, such as nursing, day care and computer training, Superintendent
Carol Green said.
A benefit of the restaurant is that students
learn about nutrition.
"We have high incidences of diabetes
within Native American communities . . . ," Green said. "But
all of our food is baked or broiled, and we really push those salads."
On Monday, several students hailed the
cafe for its varied entrees. Sophomore Stephen Luther sat with friends
eating pepperoni pizza or lasagna with salad, garlic bread and a
"Now we don't have to eat cafeteria
food," Luther said. "I'm all for that."