Position: Food Services Director
School: Jackson Hole High School
School District: Teton County School District
City, State: Jackson, WY
Music that Describes Wes
Wes Clarke was nominated by Jeff Daugherty, the district's assistant superintendent of operational services.
Teton County School District is situated in the wealthiest county in the state of Wyoming. However, approximately 40% of the population is considered "food at-risk." For a variety of reasons, many of the families in Teton County are unable to qualify for free and reduced lunch, while others refuse out of personal pride.
To address this problem, Mr. Clarke solicited donations from members of the community who have been blessed financially in order to pay the past due lunch tabs of students who could not afford to. He is presently working to develop a local program to provide free lunches for students who cannot afford them.
Additionally, Mr. Clarke helped create Munger Mercado. This program partners with a local elementary school to provide backpacks full of food for students to take home with them over the weekend so they don't go hungry. He makes the program available to all students, so that at-risk students don't feel shamed into taking a backpack.
Mr. Clarke also puts on a summer meal program to ensure students have access to healthy meals over the summer. On standardized testing days, Mr. Clarke offers free protein smoothies in the morning so students are firing on all cylinders. Additionally, he attends the 4-H livestock sale every year to support students and encourage buyers to donate animals to the school.
"As I write, Mr. Clarke is preparing to head into the kitchen at 4:00 a.m. to provide a prime rib lunch for our veterans," said Daugherty. "This event connects veterans with students and provides a firsthand account of the hard-fought freedoms we all enjoy. Few vets leave this event with a dry eye."
Another program Mr. Clarke collaborated to build is the Internet Cafe at Jackson High School. This program provides an internet bar, coffee bar and snack bar so students have a place to catch up on studies and grab a snack. He sought involvement from the Special Ed program to staff the cafe - which provides real-world life skills for these students.
As a professional chef, Mr. Clarke benefits all students with his skills. His school is limited in what they can offer in lunch lines, so Mr. Clarke creatively works to acquire locally-sourced fruits and vegetables and curate them into amazing lunch offerings. Many of these fruits and veggies are student-grown!
School lunch participation has increased dramatically since he took the reins of the department. He is able to somehow balance Federal Standards with culinary skill to provide some amazing offerings.
In his free time, Mr. Clarke serves as the Varsity and JV football offensive line coach. He also serves as a coach for two youth hockey teams. Additionally, he plays hockey for the local team. This 6 foot 7 inch, 300 pound man is arguably the nicest man in the galaxy, but on the ice, he is the "enforcer" for the team. This makes sense when one understands the enforcer is actually the protector of his teammates.
What is truly important to know about Mr. Clarke is that he forms relationships with virtually all of the students. Because of those relationships, he has the ability to truly "see" students. He knows when they face personal challenges and can lend an ear, offer a meal or encouragement, and in some cases, direct students to resources they desperately need.
"Mr. Clarke embodies all that is service excellence. He has crafted the food services program in to something far better than he was given," said Daugherty.