At-risk youth prepare, serve food at new café.
When Kenneth Hayes was released from Marion County Juvenile Detention Center where he was held for a property violation, he had two paths to choose from. He would either join the nearly 41 percent (40.6 percent of African American) juvenile offenders in Indiana returning back to the Department of Correction, or commit himself to avoiding the juvenile justice system again. He chose the latter. He chose Aftercare for Indiana through Mentoring (AIM) to help him.
AIM mentors students, primarily at Pendleton Pike Correctional Facility, and continues upon their release. Students learn about postsecondary education options and develop life and career skills. But AIM’s culinary training program at Crossroads Café caught Hayes’ eye. A chance for a job and to stay out of trouble.
Nestled in the crossroads of poverty and prosperity, just south of Butler University at 42nd street and Boulevard, at 42nd street and Boulevard sits Crossroads Café, a social enterprise café employing six to eight juvenile ex-offenders and at-risk youth. Besides preparing meals for the café’s customers, the students also provide free home-cooked lunches to neighborhood kids in the summer. After his first-ever interview, Hayes was hired.
“It’s fun to bake stuff,” says Hayes. “I buy stuff from the store, but I didn’t know you could bake cookies until I came here.”
He added that he’s even baked cookies for his mom at home since learning the skills at AIM.
On Hayes’ fifth week in the program, he was granted the privilege of becoming sandwich builder, a step up, he thought, from baking cookies. Hayes made his first sandwich at Crossroads Café in July—a grilled veggie panini to be exact. He personally delivered it with a big smile.
All of AIM’s training involves a task that generates an immediate, positive result, says director of operations, Richard Garschina. When students leave AIM they’ve learned at least one transferable life skill from either the culinary program, other various mentor activities, or both.
“I can’t do anything for these guys. I can’t make anybody do anything, but what I can do is give them an opportunity,” says Garschina.
Garschina estimates that 75 percent of students in AIM finish school or acquire—and maintain—employment. Hayes recently started his sophomore year at Arsenal Technical High School and says he’s changed because of AIM. He plans to keep working, stay out of trouble, and hang out with the right people.
Hayes’ commitment to do better for himself is evident—he projects the same hopes for the youth participating in the café’s summer feeding program. “I want them to stay in school and be a good person,” he says.
Crossroads Café opened April 23, 2015 and serves breakfast, lunch and dinner Monday through Saturday—Garschina recommends the pulled pork or roasted turkey sandwiches. Café profits, donations and grants maintain the organization’s sustainability. AIM recently received a grant for student salary support from the Community Crime Prevention Grant Program allocated by Indianapolis-Marion County City-County Council and administered by Central Indiana Community Foundation.
There are many organizations focusing on crime prevention and intervention in Central Indiana. To learn more about the various opportunities to get involved, contact Central Indiana Community Foundation at 317.634.2423 or email at firstname.lastname@example.org.