Above, Dawn Soto finds joy in her work as a senior food training specialist with the Food Services Division.

Café LA Ray is the cheery mascot of the Food Services Division.

By Lia Olga Maria Castano
Personnel Commission

 L.A. Unified has joined with the state of California in officially recognizing the third week of May as Classified School Employee Week in honor of classified school employees and the contributions they make to the educational community. Each day this week, we will profile a Classified employee selected by the Personnel Commission’s Organizational Excellence Branch for their exemplary work in support of students. Today, we honor Dawn Soto, senior food training specialist with the Food Services Division. 

Café LA Ray, the Food Services Division mascot, spreads sunshine in school cafeterias across the District. Behind that perennial smile is none other than Dawn Soto, who has been with the district for more than 23 years. Dawn and her team designed the mascot, and she was the first to volunteer to be Café LA Ray.

“There is joy to be found in everything,” Dawn said in explaining her enthusiasm for her job. “Be positive, and embrace what life gives you. Being negative takes more energy, so I make it a point to always have positive energy.”

Former Food Services Director Joseph Vaughn called Dawn a natural leader.

“She has excellent communication and presentation skills, which complement her knowledge as a senior trainer,” he said. “She knows how to present even the most mundane topics in a way that engages her audience.”

Dawn not only serves the District but makes herself available to others. Dawn has represented the Food Services Division in collaboration with the Department of Public Health to develop a training video. She represents the District on the Dairy Council of California and sits on the organization’s Food Services Advisory Committee. She is the go-to person that other school districts seek out when it comes to tackling challenges of their own.

“She performs her duties with a full understanding that her work directly impacts student nutrition,” said Branch Human Resources Manager Mimi Trinh. “Her team was vital in developing and expanding our Hot Supper Program, which allows us to feed more children who need another meal at the end of the day. Dawn’s role in the implementation of the program was significant and impactful.”

Dawn has always exuded the top level of leadership and commitment in her work. She takes on tough issues with grace and decisiveness. Dawn sees each day is an opportunity to make a difference in the health and well-being of each and every student, and an opportunity to enrich the professional development of our wonderful cafeteria staff.