HOLYOKE, Mass. (WWLP) – The first round of students to take part in Holyoke Community College’s free culinary program for the underemployed and unemployed will graduate Thursday.

The program, funded by a $190,000 grant from the state, is free to students who commit to attending classes every day for nine weeks Monday through Friday.

Rather than participating in a traditional graduation ceremony, the students will be preparing and serving a meal to family and friends at Food 101 Bar & Bistro in South Hadley. The owner of the bistro, Chef Alan Anischik, is the main instructor for the program.

Over the nine weeks, students had the opportunity to meet with MGM Springfield representatives to learn about future job opportunities once the casino is complete, according to a Holyoke Community College news release sent to 22News.

Students graduate the program earning four certificates, including: ServSafe and OSHA-10 certificates, dealing with safe food handling and workplace safety; TIPS certification, allowing them to serve alcohol; and a National Career Readiness certification, demonstrating fundamental workplace skills.

The program also teaches students lessons ranging from customer service etiquette to food and wine pairing.

Anyone interested in the program should contact Milissa Daniels at 413-552-2042.