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Vocational program helps students with intellectual disabilities


HAYWARD — On the Hayward Adult School campus, tucked away down a dimly lit hall, there is a place where simple life lessons are taught.


Those lessons begin around 8 a.m. Monday through Friday, when the 13 students in Glenn Parado’s job transition program file into their classroom: a makeshift coffee shop called The Mocha Cafe, set up next to the Hayward Adult School bookstore.

Right off the bat, there is a checklist of things to be done as The Mocha Cafe opens for business at 8:30 a.m., and everybody has a role. Tables and chairs must be cleaned and set up. The espresso machine needs to be working. Pastries, condiments, snacks and bagels must be set out. And whole coffee beans need to be run through the coffee grinder.


It is an almost daily routine that is intended to prepare students with mild to severe intellectual disabilities for life after they age out of the public school system.


“We try to teach them how to behave when you’re at work or in class and things that a lot of people take for granted, such as having clean clothes when you come to school, wearing deodorant, brushing their teeth, washing their face and making sure their hair is clean,” Parado said in an interview at the coffee shop.

“Things that we take for granted are things that we need to reinforce and tell our students,” he said.


They are lessons that go beyond vocational tasks taught each day, such as how to make a variety of beverages, count money, stock inventory and merchandise products, Parado said. He is the third teacher to lead The Mocha Cafe program since it began in 1999.

“When I first started teaching and these issues would come up, I remember thinking, ‘I guess I need to talk about that because that’s an issue we need to deal with,’ ” Parado said.


“And then there’s also romantic relationships. Their developments are a little behind, but they’re almost at a junior high or early high school (level) as far as dealing with romantic relationships, so we kind of have to tell them how they should behave in that regard as well,” he said.


Parado, who has led efforts at The Mocha Cafe since 2011, said the coffee shop is part of the school district’s job transition program, provided under federal law for students with intellectual disabilities after they graduate from high school. Such programs are provided until the students are 22 years old and are designed to teach key independent living skills, such as positive job ethics, customer service etiquette and teamwork, Parado said.

“A majority of our customers are from the English as a second language program, which is right across the hall, and they go on break at 10:30 a.m.,” Parado said during a brief respite from the morning rush at the coffee shop.


“A couple of times, we’ve had the line come out to the door with all of these people wanting to get coffee for their break, and they’ll fill up all of the tables in here,” he said.


Students typically stay in The Mocha Cafe program for about two years before they are transferred to one of the four other adult transition programs offered by the school district for students 18 to 22 years old. Though most of his students are from Hayward, some have come from Castro Valley, San Lorenzo and San Leandro, Parado said.


“Technically we’re open to the public, so people could walk off the street to come and have a cup of coffee, but we have very limited hours … and we’re also kind of hidden because we’re inside of a neighborhood and inside of a school,” Parado said.


All proceeds from The Mocha Cafe go toward buying more supplies and subsidizing field trips for students, who have outings at nearby restaurants, bowling alleys, miniature golf courses and movie theaters. Students are taught how to catch AC Transit buses and BART trains during some field trips, Parado said.


Once students age out of the public school system, regional centers run by the state Department of Developmental Services helps place them in job programs or connect their families to additional services.

Some former students have been placed in jobs through Community Integrated Work Program in Hayward, which offers limited work hours to people with intellectual disabilities and support programs.


Other former students participate in Hayward Area Recreation and Park District programs at Sorensdale Recreation Center, including literacy, math, job preparation, communication, personal health, physical fitness, gardening, performing arts and music.

Parado also recalled running into two coffee shop alumni who now work at Lucky and Smart & Final.


“You know, at the end of the day, I’m tired but I’m happy, because I realize that I’m doing something pretty cool,” Parado said

“They’re just a joy to be around, and just seeing the students grow and learn skills that they’ll need as they get older makes it all worthwhile,” he said.


Plans are now in the works to open The Mocha Cafe’s second location in the Alameda County Office of Education office on Winton Avenue. It will be geared for people with intellectual disabilities who are at least 22 years old and have aged out of the public school system, Parado said.


“It has been about two years in the making, but there are different hurdles that they have to jump through, such as regulations, acquiring new equipment and remodeling the space for the cafe,” Parado said.


Where: Hayward Adult School, 22100 Princeton St., Hayward

When: 8:30 a.m.-12:45 p.m. Monday-Friday

Contact: 510-881-5914



By Jonathan Bloom

Friday, February 10, 2017 07:11PM

HAYWARD, Calif. (KGO) --



It's the result of a long class project for these Hayward seventh graders that's proving to be a lesson in science is and a lesson in life.

They built blue boxes that store energy from the sun during the day that can power these LED light bulbs at night.

"We learned lots of new things I never knew I would ever do," said Marisol Barajas, a seventh grader.

"I mean this is something that they're building, something that they're creating, and when the lights come on, it's that satisfaction that they're saying this is something I've done," explained Cesar Chavez Middle School Principal Sean Moffatt.

Called the solar suitcase, it is a hands-on engineering project, which already makes it a special treat for the students. But they say just as exciting is who this project will help now that it's complete.

It's off to Uganda, where 80 percent of kids in Eastern Africa, do not have light. That means high school students, for example, who are taking the college entrance exams, often study at gas stations after the sun goes down.

There are study halls, but they are dark at night because there is no electricity. The solar suitcases will light up those study halls.

The kits were paid for by PG&E. The training to build them comes from students at Cal State East Bay.

"When you have kids in a school that themselves have overwhelming poverty statistics and what they're excited about is helping kids that are less well off than themselves. That is truly inspirational to me," says Karina Garbesi, a professor of environmental studies at Cal State East Bay. It was her idea to work with the middle schools.

"It feels amazing, you know? I feel so happy that I'm helping others... half way around the world," said one student.


Two-year pilot project brings musical form to life



HAYWARD — It’s 9:30 a.m. Monday, and Bryan Holbrook’s second-period orchestra class is already off to a clangorous start at Winton Middle School.


After briefly discussing plans with his class about a possible band trip next year, Holbrook signals to his nearly two dozen students that the lesson for the day is about to begin.


“Mariachi! Mariachi! Go, go go,” he yells in quick succession.

His students then jump from their chairs and run to the back of the room, where their instruments are stored in gray metal lockers, and separate into several groups spread throughout the portable classroom — violin players on the left; double bass and guitarron players on the right; vihuela and piano players to the back of the room; and trumpet players to the front.


For the remaining 45 minutes of class, Holbrook made his way to each group to help students synchronize their instruments to the rhythm and beat of “De Colores,” a well-known traditional Spanish folk song. His instructions were frequently punctuated by a cacophony of musical notes played by various instruments or students talking to each other.


“I thrive in chaos mode, and that’s how I work best,” Holbrook said after class.


“It’s challenging because each group needs help in certain areas … and they have to learn that self-discipline to sort of say, ‘OK, he just showed me how to do this, and now I have to just do it and not goof around.’


“While we’re teaching them music skills, we’re teaching them life skills, too — how to be self-disciplined, motivate themselves and get through the tasks that have been assigned to them and come back with a little bit of a product that we can work with next time,” he said.

Integrating mariachi into the middle school’s newly reorganized music program is part of a pilot project that aims to shine a light on the traditional Mexican musical art form.


“It’s a two-for-one class combination that we’re doing, and there’s not a whole lot of other teachers in the district who’d be willing to work that kind of challenge in a normal classroom setting, so it’s kind of a unique thing, and I’m always gung-ho for that kind of stuff,” said Holbrook, who became Winton’s music instructor in August after leading Hayward High School’s band program from 2004 to 2013. He then helped shore up the district’s elementary school music program and taught at nine schools before taking the job at Winton.


“The orchestra class is doubling up as the mariachi class because they already have the violins in there anyway, and some of them are learning how to play vihuela, guitarron and trumpet. So depending on the week’s schedule, we turn ourselves into a mariachi class a couple of days a week, and on the other days, it’s an orchestra class,” he said.


The pilot program started last month after approval by school board trustees in September, who set aside about $4,000 for Holbrook to buy sheet music, five additional guitars and several traditional mariachi instruments, including the vihuela, a five-string, guitar-like instrument, and the guitarron, a deep-bodied, six-string acoustic bass instrument.


School board discussions about teaching mariachi at Hayward schools date back to at least 2015.


“I think that this is finally a step in the right direction,” Trustee Luis Reynoso said during the school board’s Sept. 14 meeting, where funding for the mariachi pilot program at Winton was approved.

“The majority of our students are Latino, but I think this program will pilot something for all of our students,” he said.


Winton Middle School Principal Lisa Tess said the concept has also been embraced by parents at the school, where at least 80 percent of the students are Latino, and is gaining some attention from nearby elementary schools.


“Our core belief is in the students, and I think that’s what we really share,” Tess said of Holbrook.


“We know the students can do it, so from there, we just have to figure out everything around it,” she said.


For the next five or six months, students in Holbrook’s orchestra class will learn the basics of mariachi, including instrument techniques, the instruments’ historical and cultural significance, songs and performance etiquette. Later this semester, Holbrook’s students will perform at a Cinco de Mayo event in May, alongside the school’s baile folklorico group, and hold a showcase performance for district administrators sometime in May or early June.


Though the pilot program is missing some key elements, including traditional mariachi uniforms and a harp, much of what is being accomplished now is building the foundation for what could pave the way for mariachi programs at other schools throughout the district by next year, Holbrook said.


“It’s not about the performance, it’s about the ‘in-formance,’ because my philosophy is that we teach these students, but we also teach the parents, administration and staff, so we educate everybody,” Holbrook said.


“Our performance is more informative than it is entertaining, so while we may not have a full-on song, we’ll perform for Cinco de Mayo, and it may be only three notes, but it’s going to be awesome. We can’t be afraid to let that be a satisfactory performance because, in our world and minds right now, we’re always looking for that final product. But people always forget about the journey that we take along that way. And we have a lot of successes that we need to celebrate during that time,” he said.


Contact Darin Moriki at 510-293-2480 or follow him at Twitter.com/darinmoriki.