Through a 12-month paid internship program for justice-involved youth, Café Momentum Pittsburgh provides a transformative experience for their interns, who are coached and mentored by their chefs and staff in all areas of the restaurant, while also being provided wraparound care in the form of case management and therapy, to address basic urgent needs, expand development of life and social skills, and reduce barriers to success in and out of the program.

In Pittsburgh, many young peoples’ first interaction with the police occurs at a school-related event. Young black men and women are four and seven times as likely, respectively, to have a police encounter at school as compared to their white counterparts. Often the decided solution is to suspend, expel, or detain these students, which often begins a relationship with the juvenile justice system that can quickly spiral out of control and close endless doors for these students who are not yet even adults. Café Momentum Pittsburgh opens those doors back up again. Their program engages interns through tiers of success, which relate to relevant, real-world goals: completing life and social skills curriculum and financial education training; engaging in individual and group therapy; taking part in ‘give back hours’ (community service) and enrichment activities; and completing restaurant rotations and meeting shift attendance thresholds. Interns who graduate from the program have the opportunity to be placed in a position with a community partner, including partners in other industries.

Café Momentum Pittsburgh provides a space for justice-affected young people, who are disproportionately affected by racial and class inequities, with a chance to truly thrive.

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