TISHOMINGO COUNTY, Miss. (WTVA) -- What does watermelon carving have to do with a future in culinary arts for students who live in Tishomingo County?
A lot, according to officials there.
"The ultimate goal of this fundraiser is to be part of a five-year plan to build a state-of-the-art culinary kitchen for our culinary arts department," Tishomingo County Career and Technical Center counselor Heather Deaton said.
Those who participated got dinner and lessons in food styling by Fulton native David Leathers.
So why the push? Why emphasize culinary arts to kids? One reason could be because most high schools no longer offer home economics classes.
There's also a more economically sound reason, though.
"The fastest growing jobs are in the food service industry. Not a lot of people realize that. You may have people who don't go to movies because of the economy, they may not do certain things that they used to do, but they're always going to go out to eat," culinary arts instructor Holley Nichols said. "You've got to put skilled laborers into those restaurants, into those facilities, so they'll know what's safe and what to do once they get into that career."
Nichols has taught for the last five years at the Tishomingo County Career and Technical Center.
Nichols said students appreciate the chance to test out a career path before they head out into the job market.
"It's helped me learn a lot more about cooking and more about -- later in life -- what I want to do," student Amy Hill said.
"I wanted the students here to have the capability to understand that they can do whatever they want to as long as they put their mind to it," Leathers said.
Leathers continues as a professional chef and food stylist, traveling around the world to showcase his abilities to others.
That's why he says these opportunities for high school students are so important.
Nichols said the money raised could also give students the opportunity to take field trips and compete in culinary contests in the future.