"Spark staffers, based in San Francisco, go to after-school programs or middle schools throughout the year to talk to students. Any student who is interested, with parental permission, is then matched with a carefully screened mentor. The nonprofit program is funded by foundations and individual donors, and apprenticeships are offered in the fall and spring semesters as well as the summer.
Since 2004, 425 students - mostly at-risk students struggling academically or socially at school - have completed the program. In the fall semester, 62 students are participating in a wide range of apprenticeships in San Francisco and Redwood City - their passions connected as closely as possible by Spark's placement team to their schoolwork.
For Spark seventh-grader Yamileth Alfaro, that connection came in the form of a chocolate mocha cake with a butter crumble top.
The San Francisco apprentice baker pulled the cake out of the oven at Mama's on Washington Square and closely examined the buttery brown top and rolling texture of the crumble with her mentor, Felicia Sanchez.
The math and chemistry involved in making the cake went from academic drudgery to culinary necessity. And it had the added benefit of tasting good.
Yamileth, who attends San Francisco's Denman Middle School, meets with Sanchez at Mama's for two hours every Monday after school where they test out a new recipe, make jam for the next day's cafe customers and talk about what it takes to be a professional chef. Their pumpkin cupcakes flew off the shelves the previous week, and Sanchez had high hopes for the mocha cake - which Yamileth taste-tested and declared as, "Wow. Good!"
"Every week I can totally see her getting better," said Sanchez, whose family opened the cafe in 1951."
(read Jill Tucker's full article at sfgate.com...)