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.
My Definition Of Success | Success to me is seeing my precious young people begin to smile on a regular basis and really mean it! It’s having the privilege to walk along side them as they take steps of courage to face their deepest pain and wade through the negative messages they’ve heard their whole lives. Success is feeling like I need to take off my shoes because I’m on holy ground as I watch them forgive the impossible and fight to believe new, unfamiliar messages of truth; messages that speak of their immense value, worth and unique destiny in this world.
I Am Driven By | I believe every person was created for a great and beautiful purpose and should have the opportunity and support to fulfill that destiny. Unfortunately, too many children are growing up in devastating circumstances of poverty, abuse and hopelessness. The end result is that many of them end up incarcerated or having their life cut short by violence. Once my eyes were opened to this tragic injustice, I could not walk away and do nothing. My mother’s heart drives me to break this cycle and ensure that all young people are loved, cherished and celebrated!
A Key Talent | I think the greatest strength that I developed that was critical to my success was simply never giving up, even when nobody believed in me or supported me. Many of my friends will admit that they honestly didn’t think my idea would ever work or amount to anything. One close friend never even read my 3 page proposal that I asked him to take a look at. He later said that most people just talk about dreams, they don’t really do anything about it, so he just thought it was a pie in the sky dream of mine. (He is now one of my biggest supporters!)
It took 8 long, difficult years for my dream of Old Skool Café to finally be realized! I wanted to give up more days than I wanted to continue. It was hard to keep believing that this vision would ever come to fruition, after 8 years of still operating out of my home. God brought many great people (and youth) along the way to encourage me in the moments I needed it most. My secret for success is not an easy one but simple.
- Everyday be thankful. Even if everything seems to be falling apart, find what you do have to be thankful for and focus on that.
- When you have no idea what to do next, ask God for wisdom and direction and then put one foot in front of the other.
- Be a sponge! You don’t have to have it all figured out, but ask questions and learn from everyone you can as you go.
- When you hit a wall and feel discouraged like you can’t keep going and you want to give up…Repeat steps one through three!
Lessons I Have Learnt | One of the greatest lessons I’ve learned is that you can’t control outcomes or the choices people make. So love others well and love them deeply, but hold them with open hands. They may return to addiction or make destructive choices, but that is part of their journey that ultimately, only they can walk. Some of us learn quickly, but most of us learn the hard way…which is all part of our painful and beautiful story.
I think a lot of burnout comes from taking personal responsibility for other people’s choices. I believe that love never returns void. You may not see the immediate impact you have on someone’s life, but love cannot help but impact the recipient’s journey. Your gift of hope, love and compassion maybe one of many needed chips at their wall or it could be the final chip that brings that wall down.
Dealing With Doubt | When asked about a time that I have felt fear or doubted myself, I laugh inside because that’s how I feel most of the time! There have been so many times that I have felt completely in over my head where I had to just pray for wisdom and discernment and then step forward and practice my favorite quote from Joyce Meyers and, “do it afraid!”
Every time I’ve moved forward, trembling as I took a step into the unknown, God has shown up in amazing ways! Everything from not knowing how I was going to come up with the money needed to make payroll for all of my youth, to a young man bringing in a loaded gun to the program. I often felt inadequate to handle each situation and needed great wisdom beyond me. The way I conquered these moments was by taking time to be still and quiet and seek God for an answer. It’s amazing how much clarity comes when I quiet my anxious soul and listen.
My Future Dreams And Ambitions | I would love to travel with my youth to Cities around the world to inspire youth in other places that they can be and bring about the change they want to see in their community. I want to see Old Skool Café’s replace jails in cities around the world.
The Best Advice I’ve Received | When I was young, I experience a lot of death and loss in my family. I wanted to put up a wall and not love anybody else so that I wouldn’t ever feel that deep pain and grief again. My mom lovingly encouraged me that it was still better to have loved and lost than to never have loved at all. That is advice that I hold to to this day as I try to love others deeply but with open hands.
I Am Inspired By | Definitely my precious mom, Cora Jean. That’s why I named Old Skool after her:
Cora Jean’s Old Skool Cafe
The Legacy I Would Like To Leave | I hope to leave a legacy that changes the way people see and respond to at-risk or incarcerated youth. If I can help people see them as they would see their own children, with compassion and love then maybe the adults in our society will start to rise up and take on their responsibility to ensure our most vulnerable youth have the same safe, nurturing and loving environment they deserve.
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