Cupcakes and gang violence aren't normally connected, but one Bay Area 26-year-old is taking a passion for well-crafted confections and a desire to provide a brighter future for at-risk youth and combining them in unique ways.
Sabrina Mutukisna, the proprietor of Cynically Delicious, splits her time managing her small business and working with the San Francisco Youthworker to Teacher Pathway (a part of the larger California Teacher Pathway program). YTP seeks to provide a way (or, a path) for gang-involved youth in the Bay Area to leave behind a world of crime and violence for a successful future, namely in education. Mutukisna is also a co-chair of the San Francisco Youth Employment Coalition.
"The idea is to create 'home-grown' teachers that look like and identify with the young kids from at-risk neighborhoods," Mutukisna told The Huffington Post. "Whenever I tell people about my program, they ask why we would ever consider placing students involved in gangs to work with youth. It sounds crazy, but it's not."
"First, we pick students that are really committed to changing their lives," she added. "A lot of them have witnessed friends and family members being shot at and they don't want to be another statistic. It's insane that African American and Latino men are more likely to go to jail than college. So maybe we need a program that is slightly radical to make a change."
As a student support specialist, Mutukisna said her role is (deceptively) simple: "I do anything humanly possible to make sure my students stay in college." To that end, she sits in classes with students and meets with professors, assists with financial aid and seeks childcare and housing services so that her students can continue their education.
Like most Huffington Post Greatest Persons of the Day, Mutukisna is quick to say that she doesn't do it all by herself. She describes a "perk" of her job as "being surrounded by inspiring people -- professors, funders, community organizations like Project Rebound -- which is also where [they] recruit students."
When asked if San Francisco is the ideal place to launch a program like TYP, Mutukisna noted that many visitors and even residents of the Bay Area have a somewhat false vision of the area.
"It's funny because I think that people outside the Bay Area have this idea that San Francisco is filled with yuppies and Oakland is super scary," she said. "In reality, both cities have a fair share of gang violence and also have a great share of social justice programs. I think San Francisco is definitely more racially segregated than Oakland and so most people who visit or even live here don't experience neighborhoods like Bayview, Hunters Point, and Sunnydale."
Those working with the California Teacher Pathway hope to expand the program to a national level. "Short term, I think this program will keep students of color off the streets and in the classroom. It has the potential to produce home-grown teachers who will work and understand at-risk neighborhoods," she said. "Long term, it can give teaching the respect it deserves and inspire youth of color to want to become teachers because that's what their brothers and cousins are doing."
When asked how she plans to link her passion for cupcakes with the work she's doing with YTP, Mutukisna didn't hesitate. She said that she is "really passionate about social enterprises and the idea that businesses can both 'do-good' and also be self sustaining."
"Eventually, I'd like to merge my love of youth development and baking to create a co-op bakery where at-risk youth have shares in the business and actually participate in the decision-making," she said. "There would also be a strong commitment to post-secondary education. In an ideal world, we would partner with Bay Area colleges and feed our students into culinary and/or business programs."
But she's not waiting for someone to come do the work for her. By trying to highlight the problems that are often hidden from residents who live in the Bay's other areas, Mutukisna said she hopes to open people's eyes to the realities that many of their fellow San Franciscans face on a daily basis.
"I have been working in San Francisco (mainly the Mission District) for over five years," she said. "I'm no longer surprised when a student tells me they can't come to class or work because they have been shot or their family member was killed the night before. It's a sad reality."
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