The San Francisco Division has selected the Old Skool Café to receive the Director's Community Leadership Award.
Old Skool Café was launched in 2006 by Ms. Teresa Goines, a former corrections officer who has worked with gang-affiliated boys and girls for over a decade. Through working with incarcerated youth, Ms. Goines realized filling jails was not solving the root causes driving young people to gangs, crime, and violence. She conceived the Old Skool Café as a way to teach at-risk kids job and life skills, build within them a sense of responsibility, and pave their way out of poverty and hopelessness.
Taking advantage of the food culture in San Francisco, the Old Skool Café provides fine dining and entertainment, entirely produced and delivered by youth in the program. Individuals ages 16 to 24 are employed as chefs, waiters, singers, and dancers to produce the atmosphere of a 1940's-style supper club. The program creates a safe, supportive family atmosphere where the kids can feel secure as they struggle to overcome the odds stacked against them.
Old Skool Café is in the early stages, still entirely dependent on donated space for their productions. All of the training takes place in Ms. Goines' own home. There are, however, plans to convert an old San Francisco Police Department substation into a permanent location that would be open six nights a week for dinner and live performances. They currently arrange events at local restaurants and provide catering services for weddings, business meetings, and fundraisers.
Old Skool Café's solution to youth crime prevention, by providing real and sustainable employment to at-risk kids, is worthy of commendation.