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The National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation (NRAEF) announced it received a $250,000 donation from Darden Restaurants and its charitable arm, the Darden Foundation. The donation includes $100,000 in scholarships for students enrolled in the NRAEF’s ProStart program, a nationwide, two-year high school program that unites the classroom and industry to develop the best and brightest talent into tomorrow’s restaurant and foodservice leaders. This commitment boosts Darden’s support of the NRAEF to more than $750,000 over the past decade.
“Darden has been a steadfast supporter of the ProStart program for years. We are grateful for Darden’s continued commitment to providing educational opportunities for both ProStart students and educators in support of the restaurant industry,” says Rob Gifford, executive vice president of philanthropic initiatives for the National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation. “As we continue to develop the ProStart program to shape students’ futures and meet the industry’s need for a skilled workforce, we look forward to continuing our partnership with Darden Restaurants and the Darden Foundation to prepare students for rewarding, life-long careers in the restaurant and foodservice sector.”
As a result of Darden’s philanthropic support, in 2013, 30 ProStart students across 16 states each received $2,500 scholarships. Twenty-one additional students spanning four states received scholarships of at least $1,000 through their respective State Restaurant Associations.
In addition, Darden’s donation supports the NRAEF’s various engagement programs in 2014, including $100,000 to grow the NRAEF Summer Institutes nationally and $50,000 to fund 28 Summer Institute educator scholarships. The NRAEF’s Summer Institutes are a series of weeklong, intensive workshops that provide ProStart educators with a forum to learn cutting-edge skills, which they can take back to the classroom.
“One of Darden’s philanthropic focuses is on creating opportunity in communities we serve, which is exactly what the NRAEF provides through its various programs such as ProStart. No matter what a young person wants to do after high school — cooking, management, finance, engineering — there’s a place for them in the restaurant industry, and ProStart serves as a foundation to create a rewarding career,” says Bob McAdam, Darden’s senior vice president of government and community affairs and an NRAEF trustee. “Our support of the NRAEF and ProStart will allow students and educators to pursue those opportunities through scholarships that support their continued education.”
With national and local support from industry members, educators, the NRAEF, and state restaurant associations, ProStart is taught in more than 1,900 schools across 48 states, Guam, and U.S. military bases. This school year alone, over 95,000 students will participate in the ProStart curriculum. Many post-secondary schools in the nation recognize ProStart’s Certificate of Achievement, which is awarded to students who complete both levels of the program and at least 400 hours of work experience, and award them with scholarships and advanced placement.