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Students Serve Up Slice Of Life
Toasting bagels and serving up specialty coffees isn't what students traditionally do at school, but it's exactly what some Riverbank High kids look forward to during their brunch period.

The Culinary Arts ROP - Regional Occupational Program - class at RHS gives students some work experience and the chance to explore food career choices.

"The class is a combination of advanced food production and work readiness, employability," explained teacher Hayley Ralston. "We have a basic (foods) level, this is the advanced class."

Students take what they learned in the first level of the class and apply it here, in addition to learning how to do food orders and serving the public through the 'Bruin Café' on campus.

Open briefly during the school's brunch period - about 10 a.m. to 10:15 a.m. daily - Ralston said it's a good opportunity for students to put into practice what they have learned in the classroom.

"We do a variety of specialty coffees, muffins and bagels, hot chocolate and teas," Ralston said. "It's open to staff and students. There are some regulars."

Outside the classroom, students in the Culinary Arts class are involved in catering, with the ROP kids able to prepare, deliver and serve hors d'oeuvres and desserts at special events.

"They make to the customer demand," said Ralston, who is in her second year teaching at RHS. It's an excellent opportunity for students."

The class has catered events including the city's Wine and Cheese Festival and various Chamber of Commerce and city-sponsored events in the downtown area, providing food platters for those, as well as handling large banquet diners.

"We also do balloon bouquets, you can come in and order them," Ralston said of branching out.

Between the basic and advanced classes, there are 55 students involved in the culinary arts at Riverbank High.

"They will have a very good understanding of the food industry," when they complete the class, Ralston said, in addition to solid employment skills in that field.

Students enjoy the work and are appreciative of the chance to hone some job skills at the same time.

"I like making the (specialty) coffee," said senior Lizbeth Albor. "It's good work experience."

Senior Ana Belmontez was specific in her reasons for taking the class.

"Because I like cooking and I'm thinking of being a chef," she said.

Bianca Penunuri, also a senior, said it's a valuable class to take.

"I think it'll be fun and exciting," she said of being involved in the advanced level and helping run the café. "I'll see how well I work under pressure."

Only juniors and seniors are in the advanced class, said Ralston, with underclassmen enrolled in the basic foods class.

"I want to learn to cook better, I do a little bit at home but I want to do more," said senor Zack Gonzales, one of the handful of boys taking the class.

Ralston said the students are available to 'hire out' to serve up heir food at community events.

"Anything we can do to raise money," she said of running the catering business. "And the café helps pay for the food we use during the year."

For more information about the ROP class or how to hire the students to prepare and serve at an event, contact Ralston at 988-9629 or