December 13, 2023

Mikayla’s Story: Starting a Cooking Club

“I loved my experience and the things that came after it ended: the connections, opportunities, scholarships. I was featured on GripTape’s podcast. I love spreading the word about GripTape! I even encouraged a friend of mine to do it.”

How did you learn about GripTape, and what made you decide to apply? I was part of the Hugh O’Brian Youth Leadership Conference during the summer of 2020 when it was virtual because of Covid. I connected with a group of peers, and one of them put the link in our group chat. At first, I thought it looked like a scam — honestly. Why would they just give money? But I trusted the person who shared it, so I clicked on it and checked it out. 

What topic did you pursue in your Learning Challenge?
My photography teacher and I had been talking about starting a cooking club for awhile, and we thought it would be something good to do during Covid. I found this grant, and I thought this would be a great way to buy ingredients so it wouldn’t be a burden on anyone. 

Why did you choose this Challenge?
Because of Covid, our high school was on a hybrid schedule. Half of us went to school Monday/Tuesday. The other half went Thursday/Friday. Wednesday was for clubs. Lots of students were checking out, struggling with mental health, etc. Cooking is such an important life skill that we don’t learn in school, and Wednesday clubs gave me an opportunity to cook with other students. I had always had this passion for baking but never really had the skills to cook. I’d helped my mom with dinner, but usually it’s so busy, running between school and activities. Covid caused me to slow down. I realized I wanted to learn how to cook before college. I talked to some of my peers about it, and they were excited to join the club on Wednesdays because they were just sitting at home. 

How did you approach your Learning Challenge?
When you apply, you have to submit a timeline and plan. I said we’d meet every other week, and I had a certain dish picked out. On the off-week, I’d pick a recipe, get and distribute ingredients, etc. Once we got going, we opened it up to others to submit their own recipes. At first, we were thinking it would just be for the 10 weeks. But, students really enjoyed the club, and we decided to continue it. 

How did you use your funding?
You can ask for $100–500, and we did get the full $500. I broke the funding up among 20 people, and I planned five meals in the 10 weeks. So, I had about $100 per meal. We couldn’t buy every ingredient, but we could make it more equitable and more accessible. This was especially important during Covid. 

What was it like to work with a Champion?
I really enjoyed that. I think we met every other week during the 10 weeks, and we met longer at beginning and end. She helped me think beyond just my initial plan. She opened my mind to new possibilities. For example, one thing we ended up doing that I hadn’t planned was collaborating with a local homeless shelter. It was a really cool outreach activity for the club. 

What did you set out to learn and what did you learn?
I wanted to learn to cook and wanted to help other students learn to cook. What I didn’t expect to learn was how different cultures connect with food. We had students with a lot of different cultural backgrounds involved, and once the club was established, we rotated the leader of the cooking lesson. So, It didn’t end up being only about learning cooking skills. It also became about  being immersed in other cultures through food.

What advice would you give young people who are thinking about applying?
 I’d say absolutely do it! I know it looks like a scam at first, but the GripTape organization really wants to enable students to explore (and fund!) their passions. Be open-minded about changing your Challenge. You may have a passion for one thing, but be prepared for it to expand. I didn’t plan on doing this, I just stumbled upon it, and I’m so grateful that I did.  

What impact did the Challenge have on you? It enabled me to be involved with my school community, especially with people I hadn’t met before and especially during Covid. I was there on Monday/Tuesday, so I never saw the Thursday/Friday people outside of Cooking Club. And, the fact that we wanted to continue the club into the next school year was really impactful. I also love being in this alumni network that helps me find internships, externships, and other opportunities I might never find on my own.

Mikayla completed her Challenge in high school and is studying Hispanic studies and theater.