MONTEBELLO – About 80 Bell Gardens High School Culinary Hospitality Opportunities Pathway (CHOP) students showed off their culinary artistry during the school’s fifth annual Gingerbread House Village display and Posada fundraiser on Dec. 9, bringing in more than $1,000 for chef jackets and uniforms for CHOP and Regional Occupational Program (ROP) students.

Guests had a difficult time fitting into the classroom during the event, sliding cautiously around the towering neighborhood of gingerbread houses and cookies that lined every inch of the room. The gingerbread and frosting used to create and decorate the Gingerbread House Village was baked and mixed by the students, with some of the houses as tall as a wedding cake and taking up to a month and a half to bake and build.

“Some people might look at our CHOP program and believe we are just cooking, but these students are doing much more than just cooking,” BGHS CHOP lead teacher Elizabeth Kocharian said. “Our students use geometry and algebra skills to calculate the sizes of the gingerbread walls, engineering to keep them up and design skills to decorate the house. They need to use communication and critical thinking skills just as much as their creativity to produce a gingerbread house of this caliber. The house is the visible portion of the learning, but student also practice many of the skills that employers are seeking in today’s workforce.”

CHOP students sang carols and guided viewers through the village as part of Las Posadas, a Mexican tradition celebrating Joseph and Mary’s search for lodging in Bethlehem, while ROP students hosted arts and crafts activities, games and a Santa Claus meet and greet for children.

Each year, BGHS CHOP students kick off the holiday season by publicly displaying their handmade gingerbread houses to demonstrate their baking and decorating skills for their families, peers and the community.

“I really enjoyed making the house and knowing that I could create something like this by myself,” BGHS CHOP senior Cynthia Bernal said. “Our houses are all different because we put some of our own background and heritage into it.”

Community members and BGHS staff joined in the celebration by judging the cookie dwellings, selecting senior Alaxander Castillo’s Peppa Pig Village for first place, senior Jazmin Ramos’ farm stand and bakery for second place and junior Dominic Jimenez’s “The Nightmare Before Christmas” creation for third place. The top three gingerbread houses will be displayed at the Hilton Garden Inn in Montebello over winter break.


121916_MUSD_CHOP1: Bell Gardens High School parents and family members peruse gingerbread houses created by Culinary Hospitality Opportunities Pathway (CHOP) students during the fifth annual Gingerbread Village and Posada fundraiser on Dec. 9.

121916_MUSD_CHOP2: Bell Gardens High School Culinary Hospitality Opportunities Pathway (CHOP) junior Dominic Jimenez and senior Valerie Cervantes show off their “The Nightmare Before Christmas” gingerbread houses during the fifth annual Gingerbread Village and Posada fundraiser on Dec. 9. Their houses took them more than a month and a half to complete.