Jennifer Contreras had an interest in the culinary arts while growing up in Manteca.
She attended New Haven School and East Union High, graduating there in 2003.
“Back then, we didn’t have as many options,” said Contreras at Friday’s fifth annual Career Day at Shasta School.
Contreras eventually went on to the San Francisco Culinary, became a chef. She worked in places such as Rookies Bar & Grill at the Manteca Bowl and Family Fun Center, Walt Disney World, and at the University of the Pacific as the executive sous chef.
She’s now teaches culinary arts to students of the Manteca Unified School District’s boundless education program or be.tech.
A tuition-free dependent charter school, be.tech’s be.cuisine program gives MUSD students entry level skills in learning the restaurant industry.
“Right now, (be.cuisine) is only open to juniors and seniors – maybe that’ll change,” said Contreras, who brought along three of her students to the career day event.
Career Day at Shasta initially had a two-year run, from 1999 through 2001. It was brought back in 2009 upon the urging of teacher Jacqueline Kron.
“I’m big advocate for career awareness,” she said. “We needed to set the foundation for students before they enter high school.
“We needed to bring back career day.”
Seventh and eighth grade students again took part in the five career sessions consisting of 22 guest speakers, ranging from the Cupcake Lady (Troyce and Steve Fraga) to the Modesto Nuts minor league baseball team (Director of Brand Management Robert Moullette).
Prior to that, Mick Founts, Superintendent of Schools for the San Joaquin County Office of Education, was the keynote speaker during the morning kick-off assembly in the multi-purpose building.
Meanwhile, Ann Drum, Skyller Bilbo and Terrence Harvey are seniors in the be.cuisine program. All three have gained experience in the restaurant industry during the past two years. Drum and Harvey will further their studies in the culinary arts by attending Johnson and Wales University in Rhone Island and the New England Culinary Institute in Vermont, respectively.
For Drum – she previously attended East Union – be.tech helped pay her visit to Rhode Island while Harvey, formerly of Manteca High, also earned a scholarship. Bilbo, who attended Lathrop High, will enter the U.S. Air Force.
For students, be.tech can be that realistic option for the not-so-distant future. Other programs include be.industrial and be.first. For more information, log on to www.mantecausd.net/be.tech.
Seventh-grader Seth Holman was intrigued with Moullette’s presentation of marketing and promotion for the Modesto Nuts, a Class-A farm team of the Colorado Rockies. “(Moullette) gets to promote brands such as Nike,” he said.
Holeman walked away with a free T-shirt for answering one of Moullette’s earlier questions.
“I knew what college he attended,” said Holeman, who will put together a career day report.
Eighth graders, on the other hand, are required to use career day experience as their trimester writing project.
Moullette graduated from the Fresno State University in Business Administration and Marketing. Over the years, he’s worked internet sales and retail management.
But with the Nuts, Moullette and his staff are allowed to be creative with Promo Day events. Take Zombies vs. Vampire, for example.
“This theme night not only allows fans to come dressed up (as a zombie or vampire) to the ballpark but also allow us an opportunity to bring in the blood bank in search of donors – it’s win-win for everyone,” he said.
Based in Modesto, the Cupcake Lady is the first mobile vendors of its kind in the Central Valley. “We have people who follow our truck on Facebook and Twitter,” said Steve Fraga.
Other guest speakers included Karl Knutsen (East Union’s Army Junior Reserve Officers Training Corp), Shelby Amador (school counselor), William Mueller (Manteca Police Canine Officer), Tina Burch (registered nurse), and Austin Rioux (Manteca firefighter).
In addition, Melissa Buckmaster, Stephanie Hedrick and Shalila Pai came in to talk about Supercuts while Judy Casetta, Tanya Shepherd and Laura Estrada spoke on behalf of SJCOE’s Workability I Job Developer.