Delaware students clinch culinary title, STEM win, hundreds in job offers

Students from Brandywine High School were just named national winners in the 14th annual Samsung Solve for Tomorrow competition — the same national title another team from the school clinched last year. The weekend before, Caesar Rodney High School clinched a title, again, at a national culinary competition considered the “Top Chef” for American high schoolers.

Up in Wilmington, some 160 students are claiming their own titles. That is, signing with new employers as they plan to head into the workforce right after graduation from New Castle County Vo-Tech School District.

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After Monday morning, more than 160 seniors from all four New Castle County Vo-Tech high schools will be officially committed to the workforce after graduation.

Similar to star student athletes picking their next team, each student will sign a certificate of commitment with an employer during “Career Signing Day” at Delcastle Technical High School. And they’ll do so surrounded by educators from some 38 different career programs, other employers and family members.

Invited speaker Sen. Chris Coons helped inspire the event back in 2018. And while he’ll watch as many as 165 seniors sign on the dotted line — closer to 300 students have job offers, according to the district.

There’s a long list of career areas expected. There’s cosmetology, medical assisting, dental assisting, technical drafting, automotive technology, auto body, plumbing, electrical trades, HVAC, welding, culinary arts, graphic arts, computer programming, Early Childhood Education and more.

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The National ProStart Invitational is the largest high school culinary and restaurant management contest in the country. A fusion of “Chopped” and “Shark Tank,” it provides a platform for the students to compete for a share of scholarships totaling $200,000.

This is the second time Caesar Rodney has gotten top honors. In 2022, a team from the school also won the National ProStart Invitational. It was the first time a Delaware team nabbed the title. In 2023, the school had a team that placed second.

Delaware students Melia Stamper, Shannon Powell, Ralph Figueroa, Carys Raber and Zoe Rowe bested teams from some 47 other states, as previously reported, in a two-day showdown that gathered more than 400 students, top restaurant and food service industry judges in Baltimore.

The team was led by educator Riki Senn, alongside Thomas Hannum, an owner of Buckley’s Tavern in Centreville and Wilmington’s Goober’s Diner, who mentored the students.

So what did they cook?Delaware high school is No. 1 (again) at national culinary showdown

If you didn’t hear about it yet — or see a group of adults climb a Wilmington train platform with signs and congratulatory posters — the team from Brandywine High School was just named national winners in the 14th annual Samsung Solve for Tomorrow competition.

The student team is one of three national winners, with a $100K prize package including Samsung products and classroom resources headed to their school.

It’s the same national title another BHS team clinched just last year. This time around, students Olivia Erskine, Katherine McDerby, Isabella Chermak and Malti John, with STEM teacher Sean Merklin, led a project that has redesigned classic board games to accommodate players of all abilities.

Their goal? Allow students with disabilities more opportunities to connect with teachers and fellow learners through games.

So what did they make?Brandywine students clinch national STEM title — remaking games for players of any ability

Got a story? Kelly Powers covers race, culture and equity for Delaware Online/The News Journal and USA TODAY Network Northeast, with a focus on education. Contact her at or (231) 622-2191, and follow her on X @kpowers01.