by CLIFF AND NANCY HILL
About to graduate from Rockford High School this May ’09, hometown girl Erin VanDruen, like all students, was searching for a career path of study for her future life. Erin has always had a love of math and a strong interest in graphic arts. Along those lines Erin, as part of her Rockford High School curriculum, is also attending Kent Career Technical Center studying graphic design.
Recently, in a match that seemed fated, Erin accepted an internship in the bakery department at the Rockford D&W Fresh Market. She could not believe her good fortune when she was assigned specifically to the creation and decoration of pastry goods.
Erin’s internship was arranged through a co-operative venture with Rockford High School. The high school’s Co-operative Education and Intern Program is under the direction of Mrs. Mary Cody. Cody matches interested high school seniors, during one tri-mester of their senior year, with available internships with area businesses. She seeks to match each student’s demonstrated skills and associated interests to the available positions.
Erin’s interest in graphic design was a perfect match for pastry design and decoration. And it didn’t hurt any, as Erin says, “I’ve always had a sweet tooth!”
Although other departments at the Rockford D&W Fresh Market have had interns in the past, Erin is the first ever bakery intern. Under the mentorship of bakery department manager Cindi Wall, Erin was assigned the responsibility of the daily maintenance and resupply of the pastry display case. Wall, herself, has 27 years of Bakery experience, all with D&W. Erin could not have hoped for a more experienced tutor.
Being a Rockford High School intern requires each student to spend 10 hours of his or her school week immersed in his or her assigned internship. Erin loves her placement in the D&W Bakery and the valuable skills she is learning. Erin has taken the 10-hour requirement one-step further, so much so that each morning, Monday through Friday, while it is still dark she arrives at 6:00 a.m. not departing until 8:30 a.m. to head to her day’s schooling at the high school. Saturday mornings, while not required to be there, she arrives again at 6:00 a.m. and with an enthusiasm that is contagious to all in the department she works the entire morning leaving the store at 11:30 a.m. Talk about 110 percent!
We mentioned earlier that Erin loves her assignment but it is safe to say that D&W Fresh Market Store Director Char Bouwkamp and Bakery Manager Wall love Erin and her fast study skills and work ethic.
Time flies on the job for Erin as she creates beautiful designs on the mouth-watering pastries. The internship has been such a revelation to Erin that she has applied to and been accepted to GRCC’s Culinary Arts Program and will begin in the fall in the hopes of graduating with a degree as a pastry chef.
Through the years, D&W Fresh Market Store Director Bouwkamp has always accepted high school interns to learn valuable retail food store skills while working in various departments in the store. Bouwkamp says, “It’s a win-win for the Rockford School System, the students themselves, and D&W. Indeed, many of them demonstrate such an aptitude that they are offered part-time employment while they continue on to college to further their education. Some find that retail foods gets in their blood and return seeking a full-time career path in the retail food industry.”
In covering this story for the Rockford Squire, we were struck by the quality and selection of the large full-service D&W Bakery Department. It puzzles us that each year residents of Rockford consistently ask for a “bakery” in the annual Rockford City Community Perception Survey. One needs look no further than D&W in the Rockford East Business District. Open seven days a week, from 6:00 a.m. in the morning until late at night, the D&W Bakery offers everything from fresh hand-crafted artisan breads to a huge donut and roll selection along with beautifully decorated and custom crafted cakes for all occasions, cupcakes, cookies, and pastries.