YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – The vision of several community leaders and the Youngstown Diocese became a reality Monday with the grand opening of Café Augustine in Youngstown.
The café located inside the Newport Library opened to a large crowd with a ribbon cutting ceremony.
The shop is at the center of a program that teaches teens and young adults life skills through work at the shop.
While it’s a new business for customers, Café Augustine is a new beginning for the 14 student workers. Charmonique North is one of those workers. She’s getting work experience at the cafe, but has also learned a lot about life through the program.
“I’m learning how to be more confident and learning how to be more respectful,” North said. “I am learning to just go out there and go after what you want to do.”
Father Ed Brienz, director of the Youngstown Diocese Office of Missions, said so many young people grow up disconnected from the working world, and lose out on important skills.
“If we miss them early in life, then it puts us at a huge disadvantage when we are competing for employment and actually performing in the job that we get,” Fr. Brienz said.
The students go through one month of a life skills session learning the importance of being on time, sticking to a commitment, and having a positive attitude.
“Now that I have taken the experience, I have learned a lot I didn’t know I needed to learn,” North said.
For about three months, students make minimum wage and work 5-hour shifts around the cafe’s business hours. The students take what they’ve learned and apply it to the real world.
The program is based on a similar project in New Orleans.
The café is open Monday through Friday from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.