The CAFE Prep Impact

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The CAFE Prep Impact

CAFE Prep offers its participants the opportunity to acquire culinary skills while earning their high school diploma and/or improving their English language skills. As part of the assessment to participate in CAFE Prep, participants are interviewed by someone from the CAFE Prep team and take an assessment test as well. 

These tests quiz participants on their overall English language skills and basic high school subject knowledge. Depending on their performance on either of these tests, participants will be accepted into the program and offered the ability to participate in CAFE Prep. 

CAFE Prep prepares students for the NYC Department of Health Food Protection Certification, which is currently on hold due to COVID-19 restrictions. Instead, CAFE Prep is using ServSafe, a food safety program, that provides rigorous training as well as certification independent of the NYC Department of Health. CI covers the costs for CAFE Prep participants to take the ServSafe certification test.  Along with culinary skills, CAFE Prep participants are provided with resume and cover letter writing assistance, interview coaching, cleaning of their digital footprint, and training on how to make a good virtual impression. 

Toward the end of the last academic school year, CAFE Prep shared online resources in order for participants to take part in the program despite the COVID-19 pandemic. As the new school year is right around the corner, CAFE Prep has a few ideas in mind to be able to successfully continue to provide this opportunity to its participants. According to Adult Education Program Coordinator, Adam Nathanson, the biggest challenge has been getting creative in presenting culinary skills and assessing participants’ competency with their newly learned skills. The curriculum will take a mixed approach, combining live demonstrations, video instruction, lectures with PowerPoint over Zoom, and homework. 

For the upcoming semester, the goal is to have one main chef provide all of the culinary instruction and another chef focusing on the certification work. As part of continuing CAFE Prep virtually, the team is considering whether to deliver the ingredients needed for the classes to participants’ homes or provide a stipend along with an ingredient list for participants to shop on their own. CAFE Prep participants have shared that one of their favorite parts of program participation was enjoying their freshly cooked meals together. CAFE Prep hopes to mimic this by providing them the opportunity to continue doing so with their families at home. 

For more information on CAFE Prep, please email Adam Nathanson at an3015@columbia.edu.


Participant Profile: Tawana Velez

  Tawana Velez has been a fan of culinary arts for a long time. This is one of the main reasons she expressed interest in Community Impact’s Culinary Arts and Food Education Preparatory Program     (CAFE Prep). Once introduced to our programs, Velez decided to move forward with taking the assessment test, qualified for the program, and soon began taking classes.

  She enrolled in the dual CAFE Prep/TASC program, as she had previously been on her way to acquiring her high school diploma but needed further instruction in order to pass the math portion of the TASC exam. 

  Just a month into the program, Velez had to quickly adapt to online learning due to restrictions posed by the COVID-19 pandemic. Velez saw the opportunity in online learning and continued   attending her classes. “Online learning felt more personal to me,” shares Velez. “The teacher, Michael, was also very patient.”

  Despite all the challenges she’s been presented with, Velez graduated from the CAFE Prep/TASC program and will be one of the Community Impact participants to receive her high school diploma     through the High School Equivalency (HSE) waiver program. This waiver is the result of New York State suspending TASC exams due to the COVID-19 shutdown. To qualify for the waiver, participants need to have passed three out of five of the TASC exam subjects. Velez expects to receive her high school diploma this Fall 2020. 

"You work so hard, and then [obstacles] come in your way, and now I finally got [my high school diploma]!"

Velez is looking forward to delving further into culinary learning by applying to culinary school in hopes of opening her own catering business. She also plans to continue her relationship with CI as she will be joining us as an intern with the Ford Hall Food Pantry in September 2020.