The kitchen for Manteca Unified School District’s culinary program is going full steam, preparing for a 40-person catering dinner.
Behind all prep work is high school students who are enrolled in be.tech, which is a charter school offered through MUSD.
Students like Terence Harvey get a hands-on education.
“I learned how easy it is to make food for 500 people; how to do front of the house,” Harvey said. “I’m like barista-man champion; I can crank out coffees like it’s the thing to do. It’s pretty cool.”
Harvey just graduated along with Brian Burns and Pawl Maliq. The program taught them more than just how to cook.
“It brought me out of my bubble,” said a formerly shy Maliq.
Harvey said he learned to not procrastinate nor abuse freedom.
While Burns pointed out, “You’re doing real work. You’re doing real caterings, and dealing with real customers on a daily basis. It gets a little intense sometimes.”
Along with the skills and life experience they get from their catering jobs the students also get more hands on training running their very own student café.
At 8 a.m. brings a crush of customers ordering everything from mochas, to lattes, to breakfast sandwiches.
The students crave positive feedback, and point out it gives them purpose.
“Personally, I wasn’t necessarily doing the best in school before here,” said Burns, “This gave me something constructive to do with my time and allowed me to put my head in the right place. To be where I want to be in life”
For Burns and Harvey, “where” is in Vermont. They were both accepted to the New England Culinary Institute, which is one of the top culinary schools in the country.
The weather will be different than Manteca, but Harvey said he’s ready, “I have a couple jackets stacked up, and school shopping is going to be winter coats.”
Maliq isn’t taking the culinary route; choosing instead to pursue psychology. Regardless of the career path, the students credit be.tech with motivating them look to the future.
“I can’t tell you how much it’s changed my life,” said Maliq.
Along with culinary training, be.tech offers vocational training for first responders and industrial technology and design. To become a student interested teens just need to apply through the MUSD website.