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John O'Connell High junior Mj Paopao, Thurgood Marshall High senior Diana Villatoro, and Delfina Pizzeria general manager Arielle Chernin in Delfina's kitchen

Students explore career options during Job Shadow Day


Arielle Chernin, general manager of Delfina Pizzeria, grabbed a stack of flat pizza boxes from a shelf and set them on the counter of the popular Pacific Heights Italian joint just before the busy lunch rush on a recent Wednesday.

Thurgood Marshall Academic High School senior Diana Villatoro and John O’Connell High School junior Mj Paopao looked on with interest as Arielle demonstrated how to fold the boxes and restaurant staff prepared other lunch fixings.

“I like cooking,” Mj said, noting he has a fondness for making desserts. “I think I might go to culinary school.”

Diana echoed her interest in taking learning outside the classroom to help prepare her for her future career, possibly as a veterinary technician. “As a vet tech, I need to know how to make healthy diets, not only for animals but for myself,” she explained.

Mj and Diana are both students in SFUSD’s Academy of Hospitality, Tourism and Food Service, which is currently offered at five high schools and helps youth gain exposure in different career fields through work-based learning.

As part of the Academy program, Diana and Mj spent the better part of their school day on March 7 not inside a classroom, but rather out in the “real world” shadowing Arielle to learn the ins and outs of a job in the hospitality industry.

They were one of about 130 students—and Delfina one of about 50 businesses—to participate in the annual Job Shadow Day event, the largest ever for the San Francisco Unified School District.

Fairmont hotel manager and three students walk down a long hallway lined with windows

Over at the Fairmont San Francisco, one of the most iconic hotels in the city, five other SFUSD high school students caught a glimpse into another sector of the hospitality industry. A tour of some of the most famous spots in the hotel even included a stop in the Venetian Room, where world-renowned performer Tony Bennett debuted his signature song, “I Left My Heart in San Francisco,” in 1961.

Maggie Baker-Basler, the hotel’s front office manager, explained to students from George Washington High, Galileo Academy of Science and Technology and Ida B. Wells Continuation High School that working at the Fairmont can mean anything from meeting the most unusual of requests from a guest to interacting with famous visitors.

“Being in the front is so important with being a leader,” Maggie said. “If you expect other people to do it, you should be able to do it yourself.”

Fairmont hotel manager Maggie Baker-Basler and two SFUSD students

Galilea Martinez, a student at Washington High, was excited to see the action that goes on at the front desk, which as Maggie described can be the first and last impression on a guest.

“There’s a lot that goes on here,” Galilea observed.

She echoed what Mj and Diana described of why they enjoy SFUSD’s Academy of Hospitality, Tourism and Food Service—because it gives her a chance to learn life skills outside the classroom, like personal relations and spatial reasoning.

“These are skills I’ll be able to use everywhere,” Galilea said.

About the Academy of Hospitality, Tourism and Food Service

The Academy of Hospitality, Tourism and Food Service is part of SFUSD's growing Career Technical Education focus, which integrates high school students' learning in school with real-world opportunities to increase student motivation and achievement. The AoHTFS program is currently offered at five high schools: Galileo, George Washington, Ida B. Wells, John O'Connell and Thurgood Marshall. Courses stress hands-on, project-based learning to provide a more authentic, real-world educational experience for students.