by Lorie Lewis Ham
A few months ago I was in Downtown Fresno for jury duty and found myself looking for somewhere to get some coffee. I noticed this cute little cafe very close to the court and decided to check it out. It was called Kids Café 2019. I looked around and noticed that this was more than just a cafe, so when I got home I set out to learn exactly what Kids Café 2019 was. Here is my interview with cafe manager and chef, Paul A. Romero.
KRL: What exactly is Kids Café 2019?
Paul: Kids Café 2019 is a working classroom. We are a café, open to the public, which helps students enrolled in the Adult Transition Program gain social and vocational experience as part of their transitional curriculum.
KRL: What do you serve?
Paul: We serve a variety of sandwiches, salads, soups, and gourmet coffee drinks.
KRL: How and when did the Café come to be?
Paul: The café idea was introduced by Leah Spate, a Program Manager for the Fresno County Superintendent of Schools. She experienced something similar to Kids Café 2019 and saw a great opportunity to grow our ATP program to include the café. We opened on January 9, 2017.
KRL: How does it benefit students from the Fresno County School system?
Paul: Our café provides a real life working program where Fresno County students have the opportunity to learn and practice proper food handling, customer service, time management and basic life skills. Our program participants receive experience in real time.
KRL: What ages are the students involved and are they from specific schools or programs?
Paul: They are age 18-22 years and are all students in the Adult Transition Program for adults in special needs education services.
KRL: How long is an individual student involved?
Paul: The students are able to attend as long as they are enrolled in the ATP program, usually 4 years.
KRL: How many students are currently working there?
Paul: We currently service over 30 students from all over Fresno County, including Reedley and the Sierras.
KRL: What makes you different then other downtown cafes?
Paul: Our menu and our mission set us apart from other downtown eateries. We have fresh, healthy, chef inspired food options and our mission of serving adults in special needs education allows us to focus on people, not profits.
KRL: What is your background in food services and why did you become involved with Kids Cafe 2019?
Paul: I come from the past 19 years of working in full-service, high volume restaurants, including The Old Spaghetti Factory, Yard House Restaurant, Eureka! Restaurant, and The Cheesecake Factory. As a restaurant operator I wanted to expand my scope of impact and found this opportunity to be enriching and fulfilling. It has lived up to that promise.
KRL: Where exactly are you located?
Paul: Kids Café 2019
2019 Mariposa Mall
Fresno, CA 93721
KRL: Why Downtown Fresno?
Paul: The Office of the Fresno County Superintendent of Schools is located in Downtown Fresno. As a supporter of the Downtown Partnership and Reconstruction Project, it made sense to build the café in our own backyard.
Paul: Monday – Friday, 8:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m. (closed holidays)
KRL: Anything you would like to add?
Paul: This is a call out to the local hospitality concepts to open their hearts and open their restaurants to hire our students. Each of our students knows that they are capable of contributing to their society in some way. We ask only for the opportunity to show that we can.
One of the students working in the café, Jamie Murphy, ATP Senior, had this to say about the experience: “I like to work with customers and I have fun at the café. I hope I can work here after I graduate.”
You can find Kids Café 2019 on Facebook, and learn more on their website.