Seed-to-Table—Your Future Is Our Business (YFIOB) 13th Annual Luncheon—Showcases the Skills and Talents of Local CTEP High School Students

Culinary Arts Students with Chef Andrea Mollenauer, owner of Lifestyle Culinary and ROP Culinary Arts teacher
Culinary Arts Students with Chef Andrea Mollenauer, owner of Lifestyle Culinary and ROP Culinary Arts teacher

Monschke Hall across from Cabrillo College was buzzing with activity. Students were busily hanging a gallery of color on the walls, prepping food in the kitchen, practicing speeches and performances, and decorating tables with fresh floral arrangements. Shareen Bell, Executive Director of Your Future is Our Business (YFIOB), says, “It all started with an idea. I wanted to show the business community the skills and talents of our students and what they are learning in their Career Technical Education classes in high school.” And show they did… more than 260 students throughout Santa Cruz County who participate in 15 Career Technical Education Partnership (CTEP), formerly Regional Occupational Program (ROP), classes coordinated their efforts to make the Seed-to-Table YFIOB’s 13th annual luncheon a huge success.

“Wow, the event was incredible! It was well organized, the food was delicious and the students were inspiring.”
—Jess Brown – Executive Director, The Farm Bureau

“I love that everything was ALL in the kids’ hands.”
—Ralph Peduto – Actor and YFIOB Board Member

Students in Lisa Glick's ROP Agriculture Class clean basil for the Seed to Table event.
Students in Lisa Glick’s ROP Agriculture Class clean basil for the Seed to Table event.

It began with a donation from local entrepreneur Renee Shepherd of Renee’s Garden Seeds gifting seed packets to the CTEP Agriculture programs that grew most of the food served at the luncheon. The gardening duties were split between Lisa Glick, Shanti Wertz, Miriam Kaplan and Carol Polhamus, CTEP Agricultural teachers at five different high schools. Students in the gardens planted, nurtured and harvested tomatoes, chilies, corn, lettuce, kale and pumpkins. The produce was then handed over to the capable Chef Andrea Mollenauer at Lifestyle Culinary who teaches 90 students in three CTEP Culinary Arts classes. Adding to the meal were donations from Driscoll’s Berries, Lee Family Farms, Rodoni Farms and Route 1 Farms. The students created a savory fare including homemade salsa and butternut squash enchiladas.

Photographers from Karen Lemon’s CTEP Photography class at Renaissance High School artistically captured the food and flora of the fall harvest to display on the walls. The photography students were also responsible for the photojournalism of the event. Jenny Angelacos’ students headed up the marketing campaign with her CTEP Graphic Design 2 classes while Seth Wilson’s CTEP Web Design class handled online promotion. Beth Hollenbeck’s CTEP Music Production & Recording Arts class offered live entertainment and Gene Knipe’s CTEP Video Production class produced a documentary about the making of Seed-to-Table. Last, but not least, both of Lezlie Johnson’s CTEP Floral Design classes made festive table decorations from donated pumpkins and fresh flowers.

YFIOB’s mission to use the 13th annual luncheon as an opportunity for students to have a work-based learning experience was more than satisfied as witnessed by the excitement and pride in the students who made the luncheon possible.

Dinner is served

Michael Watkins listens to a student's career goals.
Michael Watkins listens to a student’s career goals.

The 200 person event was comprised of students, educators and members of the business community. “We wanted to create a model of interaction where all of the players could learn and network together,” said Bell of the luncheon guests. Over a fabulous fare reigned a lively and engaging mix of conversational topics—all centered around the students’ goals for themselves and looking at educational pathways of how to get there.

“The best part of the luncheon was getting to hear what pathways the adults had taken – it wasn’t at all like I thought it might be. Now I feel better about how I am approaching my future.”
—Christian Leon – student

Ralph Parduto coaches Jackie Hernandez with her speech.
Ralph Parduto coaches Jackie Hernandez with her speech.
Ralph Parduto coaches Marianna Sanchez with her speech while Shareen Bell, Director of YFIOB looks on.
Ralph Parduto coaches Marianna Sanchez with her speech while Shareen Bell, Director of YFIOB looks on.

The highlight of the luncheon arrived with the student speakers. Four young aspiring students spoke about how they have a clearer vision of a career path and how they can better prepare themselves for their futures thanks to the CTEP Program classes that they have been enrolled in. “I am starting to live part of my dream by taking the CTEP Graphic Design class,” stated young Marianna Sanchez who will be the first person in her family to attend college. Her plan is to go to Cabrillo and then transfer to the Academy of Art in San Francisco to study art and advertisement and major in graphic design. Her goal is to become a professional graphic designer. Jackie Hernandez said that she had never considered being a photographer until she took the CTEP Photography class at Renaissance Continuation High School. Now, after job shadowing and studying the principles of photography, her goal is to join her mother and sister who are already hair and makeup artists for weddings to create a family business and offer photography as part of the business plan. She plans to continue her studies in photography at Cabrillo College. The students’ stories offered honest portrayals of the hurdles that many young people today are facing—an uncertain future in a still struggling economy. Yet they all spoke strongly about the need to continue their educations and the strength that they had gained in developing their plans for their futures through mentorships and the Career Technical Education Programs available to them through the CTEP Program.

The luncheon ended in a rousing standing ovation for all of the students who put on a fabulous event so professionally.

“The amazing thing is that your idea created a mini TED conference today. With the music, the talks and the farm board’s interest in the young photographers’ talents it created possibilities, potential and promise in one quick second.”
—Laura Peduto – YFIOB Coordinator

Jackie Hernandez poses in front of one of her photographs she made for the event.
Jackie Hernandez poses in front of one of her photographs she made for the event.