2 non-traditional students off to good start in new Food Services Certificate program

Gail Cletcher’s eighth grade guidance counselor told her no college would accept her. Yet, at age 62, the Valparaiso resident and Portage Township Schools Food Service Office free and reduced lunch receptionist is enrolled at Purdue University Calumet.

So is Melia Spicer of Hebron. Despite a 35-year absence from formal education, the Porter Township School Corporation food service director joined Cletcher in successfully completing their first semester last spring of Purdue Calumet’s new Certificate in School Nutrition and Food Services.

The certificate is intended for those interested in advancing in school food service-related careers, according to Geralyn Farley, Purdue Calumet associate professor of hospitality and tourism management.

The certificate is offered on line and consists of eight three-credit hour courses and a one-hour practicum to be completed within two academic years. The certificate program is available to anyone with a high school diploma or GED.

Cletcher said she was thrilled when she first heard of the food services certificate being offered on line through Purdue Calumet, even though she felt initially it did not pertain to her. Cletcher, however, changed her mind after considering her options in the school food service industry as a substitute following her retirement.

“Laws are changing to make school food service more professional,” she said. “At some time, we may need some type of degree or certificate.”

Cletcher admitted that returning to school after 43 years took some adjusting. She said she had to schedule time for homework and studying, as well as learn how to navigate through the technological demands of her on line course. According to Cletcher, help was always available when she asked for it.

Even though Spicer said she is not good with computers, she did better than she expected and had fun with her course. She also said she benefited from a great support system of Purdue Calumet staff and peers.

“Even though it’s a little scary, I would encourage anyone, regardless of their age, to go for it,” Spicer said.

Cletcher also recommends the program, adding that since the courses are on line, “You can sit at home in your pajamas and do your assignments and exams.”

Application and program information can be obtained by contacting Academic Advisor Chynisse Browder at 219/989-2588 or browder@calumet.purdue.edu.

(Written by Office of University Relations student intern Brandy Dieterle)