It only took one batch of burned tostadas, and the message was clear, communication is key. New Mexico State University’s Chef Pete Mitchell shared this valuable lesson during the second week of the Aggie Academy’s Wellness Wednesday.
Aggie Academy is one of the summer virtual programs provided by TRIO Upward Bound Gadsden Independent School District/Las Cruces Public Schools’ 2021 Crimson Summer Institute. The six-week program, held June 1 through July 13, provides academic curriculum including math, English, reading, science, career prep and college knowledge, a foreign language and educational and cultural workshops.
This summer the programming included a study abroad theme along with a new component, Wellness Wednesdays, featuring health and financial wellness. Wellness Wednesdays, which concluded July 7, included nutrition and etiquette with Andrea Arrigucci, program coordinator from NMSU’s Marriott Hospitality Futures Center, and virtual cooking with Mitchell.
“The midweek day kept our participants interested and motivated in pursuing higher education and planted the seed of studying abroad and eating healthy on a college student budget,” said Rosa De La Torre-Burmeister, TRIO Upward Bound GISD/LCPS program director. “They learned that nutrition and etiquette doesn’t cost a lot, and it helps with mental and financial wellness.”
During the Mexican cuisine session when the tostadas were overcooked, Mitchell emphasized the importance of speaking up, “they learn those simple things they take for granted.”
Mitchell, who has been a faculty member in the School of Hotel, Restaurant and Tourism Management in the College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences for six years, said he was pleased with the students’ skill level.
“A lot them feel comfortable in their own kitchens, and a lot of them have been very creative,” he said. “I’ve been surprised at the pictures they send back to us.”
Arrigucci, who led the weekly lectures prior to the cooking presentations, said she and Mitchell hoped the curriculum would be a unifying experience.
“We have put a lot of focus on showing the world is a really big place,” she said. “That taking the time to consider other people’s cultures and those behaviors and experience and trying new techniques and food, doesn’t have to be scary or intimidating.”
Additional Wellness Wednesday programming included mental wellness headed by Marie Zubiate and team of counselors with the Aggie Health and Wellness Center; Tai Chi for Mind, Body and Soul with Shigang Liu, TRIO Upward Bound instructor; financial wellness with Amanda Morales, United Way of Southwest New Mexico CEO, and the Money Smart Team.