Starting Monday, Newport Coast Elementary students have one more thing to work for: free food.
Zov Karamardian, the owner of Zov's Restaurants, came up with the idea of "A to Zov," a new program that rewards students for good behavior with free meals at three of her locations in Newport Beach, Irvine and Tustin.
When students perform a good deed — be it social, athletic or academic — teachers can reward them with "purple dollars" redeemable for a kid's meal at the Zov's Neighborhood Bar & Café in Newport Beach and Irvine, and Zov's Bakery in Tustin.
"It really supports teachers and makes them feel valued by both Zov's and the community," said Duane Cox, principal of Newport Coast Elementary. "The strategy will be appreciated by both students and their families."
Students aren't the only ones to reap the benefits of the educational program. Faculty get a piece of the pie as well.
Every Monday and Tuesday, teachers from Newport Coast Elementary eat free from 6 to 8 p.m. at any of the three locations.
Nov. 1 was the first day of the program at the school, and faculty celebrated with a complimentary lunch at the Newport Beach restaurant.
Cox, who is also marking his first year as principal at Newport Coast, is looking forward to the partnership.
"I think it's exciting for students," Cox said. "Students that get to go to Zov's are most likely going to eat something nutritious, which is important as we address healthy eating and obesity."
Cox also pointed out how important it is that the faculty are being recognized.
"It's just so wonderful for teachers that work so hard for our students to be able to feel so supported by their community," the principal said. "it's an incredible gesture for Zov's to provide for teachers."
Karamardian, who opened her first location in Tustin in 1987, has become a culinary icon in Orange County. When she's not cooking up award-winning cuisine, she's giving back to the community. For years Karamardian has gone to inner-city schools and taught kids how to cook. Right now, she's working on a program in Tustin where she teaches students how to garden, harvest and cook with the ingredients they've grown.
"I'm a firm believer in education, and I love working with kids," she said.
Similarly to Cox, she's looking forward to the opportunity to influence the students' eating habits, which may not be the best.
"I anticipate that the kids will eat healthy foods," she said. "We have really good homemade food (at Zov's). That's basically the goal. We're empowering the kids that they are worthy of getting a reward."
Although the pilot program is focused only on Newport Coast Elementary, the restaurant owner has plans to expand accordingly with her other locations in Irvine and Tustin, as well as approach more schools in Newport Beach.
For more information about the program, visit http://www.zovs.com or call Armen Karamardian at Zov's Bakery in Tustin at (714) 838-8855.