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DALLAS, Texas- The things Daisy Martinez learned at Duffy's, the culinary program at Molina High School, are paying off now.

Her love of cooking has blossomed into a way to make a living.

Martinez was part of the successful culinary program at Molina High that News 8 reported on in February, when they placed in a competition sponsored by the Dallas Restaurant Association. Now Martinez and other students have a leg up in the workforce and in college.

She has a job as a cook at the Dallas Zoo. It's the first step in her goal to become a chef.

It is really fun, because it is something that you made, Martinez said. And [it feels good] when you see people eating it.

Molina is one of 27 North Texas high schools that participate in ProStart, a workforce development program, sponsored by the Greater Dallas Restaurant Association. Students learn the ins and outs of the hospitality industry in high school. 78 percent of students in ProStart go on to get jobs after graduation.

Until Martinez entered the culinary program at Molina, cooking as a career hadn't really crossed her mind.

You are interacting with people, knowing what they want, getting to know the food industry and restaurant industry, she said.

It's had a positive impact overall on students, according to Tracey Evers with the Greater Dallas Restaurant Association.

We hear from teachers and parents that this program keeps kids in school, she said.

ProStart and the Greater Dallas Restaurant Association have awarded $82,000 in college scholarships in 2012 to students like Martinez, who will attend El Centro's culinary school.

Now her dream to be a chef is a bit closer to reality.

I want to open up a restaurant in honor of my grandma, she said.

E-mail tfoster@wfaa.com

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