The power of second chances can be seen at Old Skool Cafe in San Francisco, CA.
The youth-run, jazz-themed supper club hires formerly incarcerated and foster care youth — ages 16 to 22 — and exposes them to various avenues of the business. This includes educating them on how to be hosts, servers, chefs, and entertainers through a free 12-week program titled “101 Restaurant & Life Skills Training.”
According to the company’s website, participants will receive financial compensation upon completion and will be welcome to scale their interest to receive advanced apprenticeships. The third phase of the program will introduce the youth to leadership and management skills.
“I found a lot of young people if they were able to get a job, would often lose it fairly quickly due to all the kind of situations in their life and lots of instability and trauma,” Founder Teresa Goines told AfroTech. “So, I felt like it also needs to be a job where there’s mentorship around them where there’s a sense of building community, support, family and where they felt like they really were a part of something bigger than themselves because these were all the things that the streets were offering. That was sort of the whole driving force behind creating a fully youth-run, supper club with live entertainment.”
The efforts at Old Skool Cafe have been going strong for at least a decade.
Additionally, one of the early supporters of restaurant’s vision includes West African chef Eddie Blyden. He first crossed paths with Goines in 2006, while working at another San Francisco restaurant. A year and a half later, he started to volunteer at Old Skool Cafe and now works there full-time.
He recalls feeling drawn to be a positive presence in the lives of the youth.
“I was just pulled. I don’t know how to explain that anymore, but for me it’s a day-to-day life sharing experience,” Blyden told AfroTech.
Blyden joins a pool of others who contribute to the heartbeat of Old Skool Cafe and are collectively on a mission to build an infrastructure that allows the youth to flourish beyond the restaurant.
“We’ve talked about providing opportunities ’cause most of them do live in the community where we are and the neighborhood is a little challenging. In terms of the mission, it’s just to build stronger infrastructure for them to thrive in and expand their growth potential,” Blyden said.
Goines added, “We want them to know their value and their identity, that they’re precious, that their life matters, that they can dream, and that they’re powerful. Hopefully we can start to combat some of the negative stuff they’ve been hearing in their lives and help them to have a vision and hope for their future and whatever that is that they wanna do. Our passion is not that they stay in restaurants. We’re equipping them with that skill, but a bigger life skill that wherever they want to go and whatever they’re passionate about doing, we want them to be set up for success to do that.”
Looking ahead, there are plans underway to offer a new curriculum to embolden the acquired skills from the program.
How To Support
For those interested in lending a helping hand to Old Skool Cafe, you can support by eating at the establishment, hiring the team to cater an event, or placing a donation.