Enterprising students raise funds with a romantic evening of dining
By LYNNE FOSTER
on earth would ever dream of dining out with your sweetheart for
Valentine’s Day in a school cafeteria?
As it turned out, at least 240 Hatteras Islanders did, not only the
supportive parents and teachers one would expect, but also many of us
with no direct contact with the school.
The sophomore class at Cape Hatteras Secondary School opened their
annual Valentine Café on Saturday, Feb. 11, for the second time and
drew an appreciative crowd that doubled last year’s numbers.
The brainchild of 2014 class president Chris Johnson, the Valentine
Cafe is the sole fund-raising project of the class, and it is
Johnson was advised during freshman year by the class sponsor, Erin Del
Monte, that the class might want to start raising funds so they would
be ready for the huge expenses of senior year.
In addition to hefty graduation expenses, there’s a prom to organize
and, they hope, “a crazy, fantastic senior trip,” according to Johnson.
He reasoned that it would be better to do one major event rather than a
seemingly unending series of smaller events that would be necessary to
raise the needed funds. He estimated the class would have to
generate at least $1,000 per year.
The class galvanized around the idea of a formal dinner, and using
their enthusiasm and energy, secured parental support and began to plan.
First they looked at “major” dates -- those around holidays.
astutely settled on Valentine’s Day, figuring that “most people like to
eat out and most of the island’s restaurants are closed then.”
Help came from many quarters, and the first dinner drew 125 people and
made $2,000 for the class.
Confident now that they could successfully undertake a big project,
they elected to make it their signature annual fund raiser.
Their plan was well executed.
Diners made reservations for a specific seating time and selected their
entree beforehand. The choices were prime rib or pasta
with either shrimp or chicken.
Upon arrival, guests with young children in tow dropped them off in the
gym for free babysitting by students and then were greeted in the lobby
by student hosts and hostesses overseen by Johnson, the major domo for
Patrons were invited to enjoy the bountiful hors d’oeuvres while
waiting for their tables. There was a dazzling array of bite-sized
appetizers, beautifully displayed on pretty tablecloths and unique
pottery serving pieces.
The selections were sophisticated and every taste was as luscious as
the one before. It took a jolt of self-discipline and a stern
reminder of what was to follow to walk away from the table.
Among the choices were fried calamari, bite-sized shrimp and grits,
Asian meatballs, Asian flavored fish cakes and, of course, steamed
shrimp. A variety of sauces accompanied the seafood,
hot mustard, cocktail sauce and a Thai sauce.
There was also a smoked salmon bruschetta and a smoked salmon dip with
crudités, Oriental pork dumplings, and a lovely gazpacho served in wine
It appeared that care had been taken with the food to provide not only
flavor and variety but also colors that looked alluring on the pink
Diners mingled in the lobby until their tables were ready and then were
escorted by one of the four hosts or hostesses on duty into the dining
room (aka school cafeteria).
The room was hardly recognizable. Twinkly fairy lighting and decor
transformed the room and a flattering muted pinkish glow from overhead
emitted an aura of romance in the air.
Gone were the long rows of tables, banished to elsewhere in the
school. In their place were a variety of tables collected
all over the school: small tables for two and various sizes for larger
groups, including one of the first arrivals -- a party of 11.
Red, pink, purple, and white tablecloths with candles and fresh flowers
decorated each table. Table numbers were inscribed on cut-out
Student wait staff, trained by Kathy Tawes, busily moved around the
room offering water or tea, bringing in the salad with almost every
local’s favorite creamy balsamic dressing by Tracy Oden, and confirming
the entree selections.
Meanwhile, the kitchen, under the control of Beth Gray, was abuzz with
parents cooking appetizers and entrees with the assistance of students
who were responsible for the salads and homemade breads.
Still more students helped with prepping food, busing tables and
washing up the tableware that had been lent by local restaurants for
We had opted for a late seating that followed the main rush, yet all
the tables were full. Everyone was talking quietly,
atmosphere, all in all, was romantic.
Following the entree, servers offered a dessert tray with a variety of
sweets -- strawberry or coconut cake, double chocolate refrigerator
cake, and cheesecake were extravagant and very enticing. Even
succumbed to the temptation in the spirit of the evening!
The evening was successful on many levels.
Diners enjoyed a night out and a delicious dinner for only $25 per
Parents and some grandparents, along with staff, had an important role
to play by working with and guiding the students in a business
venture. They worked very hard, but Chris’ mother, Jenn
reassured me, everybody really enjoyed it.
And, best of all, approximately 30 high school sophomores had a
They created, budgeted for, ordered for, set up, and ran a successful
restaurant from scratch by working cooperatively toward a shared goal.
Their class bank account, held by the school, is richer by
approximately $1,800. Although there were twice as many
last year, food costs had risen so much that it cut into their profit.
Don’t worry. They are already thinking of creative ways to get over
that next year.
“We started planning in December,” said Chris Johnson, “and my
satisfaction comes from knowing all the work and planning were worth
it. Everyone seems to be enjoying themselves.”
The Valentine Cafe will open again next February and the
When the class of 2014 moves on, their younger brothers and sisters --
and parents -- plan to keep the tradition going. Then perhaps
another group will carry on.
We are assured of at least another six lovely evenings at the Valentine
Cafe. Don’t miss them!