Royce Bonilla-Hurtado prepares pastries for the Mission Language and Vocational School's new year's bash.

Good food, burlesque dancers and socio-economic improvement for vulnerable communities rarely go hand-in-hand, but all three come together tonight at the Mission Language and Vocational School’s New Year’s Eve party.

The event, which kicks off at 8 p.m., features an international buffet, a free champagne toast at midnight, a wine and vodka tasting, live music and Brazilian samba and burlesque dance performances—with all the proceeds benefiting the school.

“The party is as much about bringing people into the school and raising awareness about what we do as it is about raising funding,” said Todd Kyger, education coordinator for the school, which is located at 2929 19th St.

Tickets for the event—normally available online for $68, or $20 without dinner—can be purchased for a special price of $20 at the door if you mention Mission Loc@l.

The school helps low-income minorities and immigrants receiving unemployment or disability benefits become economically independent by providing English language and vocational training in the clerical, healthcare, computer technology and culinary professions.

As long as the students attend classes and meet performance standards, their courses, which last from six months to a year, are free.

“Before, I thought I would have to be a businessman working with a suit and tie all my life, which I would hate,” said Royce Bonilla-Hurtado, a student at the school’s culinary academy, as he poured chocolate onto pomegranate pastries, which will be served at the party.

“Coming here showed me there are other options to get a good job. I love what I do. I think I was meant to work with chocolate.”

Bonilla-Hurtado, who will finish his culinary training next week, plans on working as baker and pastry chef after graduating.

Most years, the school enrolls about 600 students, helping about 80 percent to find jobs after graduation, but recruitment efforts have suffered with the economic downturn, Kyger said.

“Typically we’ve relied on businesses, banks, communications companies and the state to fund our programs,” he said. “As our funding sources see their budgets shrink with the economic crisis, our budget shrinks too.”

Kyger said the school is hoping to raise $20,000 – $30,000 from its New Year’s Eve party.

The money will be used for recruitment efforts and remodeling the Florida Street Café, a full-service restaurant in the school that is staffed by its students under the supervision of expert chefs.

But those plans will only be possible if the school packs the house for the party, said Angelo Mueller, the chef in charge of the school’s culinary school.

“It’s a good cause. These people are from different countries, they are on welfare and unemployment and many don’t speak English,” he said. “The event will be extravagant and memorable, and it will give back to the community by supporting our school.”

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Bryan Gibel

Born in Albuquerque, New Mexico, Bryan has a background in investigative reporting for newspapers and the radio. He is working the health beat for Mission Loc@l.

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