Cafe Momentum is a nationally-recognized nonprofit restaurant and professional culinary training facility based in Dallas, Texas which provides a 12-month paid post-release internship program for troubled adolescents exiting out of juvenile detention facilities.
Although a number of restaurants across the nation provide opportunities to adults who have been released from prison, Café Momentum may be the only fine-dining restaurant to focus on giving once-troubled youth an opportunity to learn how to cook, serve, and get a well-paying job in the food-service industry.
Café Momentum, working in collaboration with the Dallas County Juvenile Justice Department, strives to teach these young men and women that it is possible to break the cycle of violence and crime that many of them face. The focus is on creating environments where they can gain self-confidence and learn marketable skills to ensure a more successful future.
Interns do almost everything in the restaurant, from chopping and grilling in the kitchen, to serving and clearing dishes in the dining room. The interns then work their way through all areas of the restaurant while learning legal employment, social skills and life skills. Accountability is enforced throughout the program.
The internship starts with a 2-week orientation at which time the interns are connected with case managers to address basic urgent needs, establish a baseline of stability in their lives, and set personal goals. Along the way, the interns take classes in parenting, financial literacy, career exploration, and driver’s education. Case managers also help to work through issues such as anger management, trauma recovery, and abandonment.
The first internship tier involves prepping food, washing dishes and clearing tables in exchange for $9 an hour plus free passes to take Dallas public transportation. In those initial months, the interns are helped to obtain government-issued identification, open bank accounts, and re-enroll in school.
The interns’ salaries increase by one dollar an hour as they move to higher tiers of responsibility. They begin to serve patrons and cook in the hectic, cramped kitchen.
After 12 months, successful graduates are placed in a job with one of the community partners. These young men and women, are now employed, tax-paying, wholly contributing members of society. The cycle of violence and crime that many of these teens faced is broken.