MEDA Opens its Doors to Culinary Entrepreneur Students

JOC BlogPlaza Adelante, MEDA’s Mission neighborhood center, was abuzz today with the enthusiasm of youth. That’s because students from the Class of 2014 of John O’Connell High School were paying a visit to learn of free programs for young adults. The group was chaperoned by teacher Ruben Quezada. All students have been part of the school’s innovative Culinary Entrepreneur Program. Transition Specialist Tyrell Jackson–who works with a MEDA partner, Jewish Vocational Services (JVS)–was also in attendance.

John O’Connell is one of four schools in the community that comprise the Mission Promise Neighborhood, a federal program that guides Mission District students on a cradle-to-college-to-career continuum. MEDA harnesses the expertise of family success coaches to ensure that this goal is met.

MEDA staff walked the John O’Connell students through the possibilities for free workshops and one-on-one coaching at Plaza Adelante. First up was Job Coach Olivia Quinonez, who facilitated the meeting. Quinonez advised the young adults on how they can use MEDA’s Neighborhood Access Point (NAP) to work on a computer and search for jobs; she also availed them of the Job Readiness Training program, where competence can be mastered in resume writing and interviewing.

Next up was MEDA Business Development Coach Alexander Ankrom, who was invited to speak about how to start a business. Several young, budding entrepreneurs expressed an interest in starting a restaurant some day, so Ankrom advised how MEDA’s free workshops could guide them through that process. Permits, marketing, access to capital, lease negotiation—all aspects of business development would be learned. Ankrom also explained how El Mercadito, located in Plaza Adelante, serves as a microbusiness incubator for MEDA Business Development Program clients; this includes Cholo Soy, a Peruvian restaurant located in the building’s paseo.

Last up was Technology Training Coordinator Leo Sosa, who gave an introduction to a trio of free programs for young adults: Bilingual Bank Teller, where skills can be learned to get a job in the financial world; Customer Service, where such expertise, transferable to all industries, can be garnered; and Mission Techies, where knowledge can be obtained to start on the path to an IT career. The John O’Connell students had their interests piqued when Sosa mentioned that stipends were offered as a part of all three programs. These stipends are based on attendance, evaluation and key milestones, the latter including things such as the participant having attained certain skills.

Over lunch, the students zealously told of their recently winning the “Most Spirited” award at a statewide contest, held in Sacramento, where Hospitality & Entrepreneurship classes from all over California competed. There were two competitions, one in food preparation and one in entrepreneurship as related to opening a restaurant. One student even won a scholarship for his recipe!

MEDA was pleased to hear that all of the students have plans to attend college. The future looks bright for these Mission District youths now that MEDA has been enlisted to lend a guiding hand toward a successful future.