Culinary student Malachi works quickly, wearing clear plastic gloves, as he hand mixes a colorful and sumptuous salad inside his classroom. He and his classmates are eagerly preparing a menu designed to impress dozens of guests. Their classroom is inside the Sacramento County Youth Detention Facility (YDF), rather than a traditional high school.
Malachi is just one of dozens of students who are learning valuable skills in a newly launched career technical education program at YDF that’s preparing them for future culinary careers. “It’s something I can use—not only while I’m in here to gain teamwork skills—but, also, something I can use when I get out, as far as helping me towards a better career and a better future for myself,” he says.
A $500,000 California Apprenticeship Initiative (CAI) grant from the California Community College Chancellor’s Office is making this pre-apprenticeship program possible. With the grant, the Sacramento County Office of Education (SCOE) and the Sacramento County Probation Department have partnered to launch the culinary program.
On Tuesday, the partners hosted an invitation-only launch party to highlight the new program. The showcase included hors d'oeuvres, desserts, and light refreshments prepared by students, plus a tour of the culinary classroom and on-site garden. Guests had an opportunity to meet students, the instructor, and the Probation Department team members helping the young people learn valuable employment and life skills.
“It really opens doors for young people, programs like this,” said Sacramento County Chief Probation Officer Lee Seale. “If we can get through to young people and help connect them with jobs, the possibility of further study, then that really is a public safety success.”
“It really helps the youth,” said Jerilyn Borack, Juvenile Court Presiding Judge. “Our main goal of the juvenile justice system is to rehabilitate, to help kids make better choices and have a better future.”
In the program, students are learning valuable job skills and also earning their food handler cards. The cards help make them eligible for employment in the food industry upon their release from the YDF. “We are always looking for ways to provide opportunities for our students, especially those students we are serving inside the YDF,” said David W. Gordon, Sacramento County Superintendent of Schools.
Instructor Carissa Jones says the goal is to help students learn the value of building relationships, in addition to creating a solid culinary foundation. “I want the kids to know that there is a home for them in a career—and a job that will take them the way they are and appreciate their value and the contributions they make,” Jones said.
After leaving the program and YDF, student Kevonte plans to take what he has learned and build his future. “Everywhere you go, you want to make the best of any situation you are in—that's just how life goes. You want to get through things. Like me being here. That’s not the end,” Kevonte said. “So, I gotta turn being in here into something good and positive.”