Guests enjoyed the “Count the Calories Breakfast” hosted by students at the Academy of Excellence alternative high school on April 24. Students cooked and served the food as part of a real-life experience using lessons learned in class.  

students and staff preparing food in the kitchen

The kitchen was bustling with activity during the breakfast rush at the Academy of Excellence's "Count the Calories" breakfast.

By Gary Miller

Recent visitors to the Academy of Excellence got a hearty breakfast that included eggs, bacon, fruit, pancakes and plenty more. Afterward, they were given a card that tallied up the calories they had just consumed.

But their hosts and hostesses may have gotten even more out of the day.

Students at Linden’s alternative high school presented their second annual “Count the Calories Breakfast” on Wednesday, April 24, as a way to integrate what they’ve learned in science and math classes into a real-life work experience.


“This event not only enhanced math and science skills, it also prepared the students with real life skills that they can take into any workplace,” said Abdelmonem Zeidan, a science teacher at the school who was the driving force behind the event.

Specials guests at the two breakfast sessions included administrators and staff from throughout the district, Board of Education members and other elected officials, and families. Students met them as they came in the door of the school, which is housed in the former St. Elizabeth’s School. Other students showed them to their seats and took their orders.

teacher and students posing for photo at a table

Behind the scenes, the kitchen bustled with a host of workers who cooked, prepared and plated the meals, and others who cleaned up and washed dishes. Others tallied up the calories from each order and presented the total to each guest.

“These students worked tirelessly under the guidance of Mr. Zeidan,” Kcyronne Zahir, director of the Academy of Excellence, said during opening remarks at the breakfast. “Today is just one day; I am proud of what our students do day in and day out. They come to school and they come to do work.  So as much as this is something for all of you, it’s really something for us to take a look at them and say, ‘Wow! You’re more than capable.’ ”

The breakfast, which was funded through a grant from the Linden Education Association, also took on the added significance of falling on Administrative Professionals Day. Many of the district’s secretaries and administrative assistants were in attendance and honored during opening remarks by student Ania Williams.

student speaking to room in front of gift baskets and Academy of Excellence cafe sign

The work for the breakfast began long before that day. Using district-issued MacBook Airs laptops, students developed menus, and created table assignment cards, fliers, and formal invitations to promote the event.

Art students helped to create a welcoming ambiance by adding paintings around the cafeteria, as well as flowers on each table.

Guests were also able to buy gift baskets that included decorative plants as well as soaps and candles made by students in science class.

“I tell students all the time that they can become anything that they want,” Zahir said. “We push them and push them, and sometime they get tired of us, but we want to see them succeed.

“When the seniors walk across that field in June to receive their diploma, I want them to know that they earned it when they came in each and every day to put the work in.”

administrators smile for camera while seated at table