Nestled in the heart of downtown of Dallas, Texas, sits a modern American eatery with a seasonal menu inspired by local farms and ranches. Guests dine to enjoy top-notch dishes with a great service experience. But what makes this place stand out from any other dining establishment is its mission and its workers.
Café Momentum is a nonprofit run by Interns that have previously been detained in juvenile facilities. Its mission is to equip at-risk youth with life skills, education and employment opportunities to help them achieve their full potential. They do this by providing a 12-month paid internship for kids coming out of juvenile detention.
At the 2020 Global Best Practices Conference in Dallas, Texas, Avery Block, restaurant experience manager of Taco Bell, interviewed 3 students that were currently working internships with Café Momentum. They shared where they were in the multi-tier process of the program as well as what they learned and where they wanted to go next.
Building A Foundation with a Multiple Tier Process
Interns work their way through several tiers, then work on an externship to help them get into college or find employment. Hourly pay increases as they move through the tiers. The program is designed for each student to work in each tier for at least 90 days. Requirements include community service hours, getting a state identification card, write a resume or conduct mock job interviews. They provide a home school program, case workers or even transportation.
“The thing that has had the biggest impact on me being in the program is that, before joining, I never really saw all the good in me or the skills that I had. Working in the restaurant and having the case managers, restaurant staff and Chad has made me see all the good that everybody else has seen in me through all that I’ve been through, use that in a positive way and put into my daily job,” shared Rose, an Intern approaching completion of the program. “I know that’s something that I’m forever going to be grateful for. It really is a family and it is something that has helped me become a better person.”
Many of these Interns have developed a passion for the restaurant industry and plan to pursue careers in it, whether it is through culinary arts or opening up new restaurants. Others have different plans, including opening up a barber shop or going to college. Whatever their plans are, this program is aimed to help them achieve those goals.
“It changed the way I think. I’ve been on my own since I was 16 and I had to grow up. In order for me to change my mindset I had to start listening,” shared Sheila, a current Intern at Café Momentum. “I learned how to manage the restaurant when there is a lot of people, learned teamwork and communication skills. I feel like it will help me in the next steps of my life because I want to own my own business.”
Opportunity for Restaurant Operators to Make a Difference
The restaurant industry is uniquely positioned to offer young people the opportunity to learn and grow a variety of skills that will better serve them and their communities. By expanding our view in terms of where we are looking and recruiting for talent, we will not only help solve the labor crisis, but can make a huge impact on those who need it most.
And Rose’s advice to new Interns entering the program? “It’s all about progress, not perfection. You are going to make mistakes. But it is how you come back from what you did wrong, how you carry yourself forward and how you move on from that.”