On Monday, September 23, Café Momentum, the Los Angeles Rams and Stand Together hosted a pop-up dinner at Rossoblu in Downtown Los Angeles to support local at-risk youth in achieving their full potential. Café Momentum is a non-profit restaurant and professional training facility that provides employment, life skills training, and wraparound care to youth exiting juvenile detention facilities.
The Rams first learned of Café Momentum during a visit to Dallas and pledged their support to bring the effort to Los Angeles.
“To us, social justice is about leveling the playing field of life and providing people with equal opportunities,” said Molly Higgins, Vice President of Community Affairs and Engagement, Los Angeles Rams. “For many of these young adults, they ended up in a detention center because of unfortunate life circumstances. We viewed the partnership with Café Momentum as a way to expand our relationship with the Ventura Youth Correctional Facility and provide these young people with important life skills, the confidence that they can turn their life around and the understanding that there are people who want to help.”
After receiving training at the Ventura Youth Correctional Facility, the young adults traveled to Rossoblu where they spent the evening cooking in the kitchen and serving guests.
“We have some of the best food and service in LA and it’s all going to be provided by 10 youth who just started training two days ago,” said Chad Houser, Café Momentum Founder. “It’s an incredible opportunity for us to learn more about the LA community, meet people in the community that are doing incredible work, and see how we can work alongside them as we look to grow and expand.”
Rams, Café Momentum and Stand Together host pop-up dinner to help at-risk youth.
Rams Defensive Backs AQIB TALIB and NICKELL ROBEY-COLEMAN, Linebacker OBO OKORONKWO and Kicker GREG ZUERLEIN showed their support for the young adults who are paving a brighter path for their next chapters.
“The future is always brighter,” said Robey-Coleman. “These individuals went through something, they made a mistake but are now getting a second chance and that’s what it’s all about.”
As a native of Dallas, TX, Talib was no stranger to the mission of Café Momentum and the opportunities they provide. Café Momentum created a 12-month paid post-release internship program for individuals exiting the juvenile system. Following a successful 12-months in the program, participants can graduate and be placed in a job with one of Café Momentum’s community partners.
“My cousin (Kajuan Jolly) went through the program and it helped him out,” said Talib on his familiarity with Café Momentum. “As soon as he was out, he was immediately able to get a job. He found a new interest in his life. It bettered his life because that’s what he does for a living now, he’s a chef.”
In 2016, Jolly met Chad Houser and enrolled into the program. Following his graduation, Jolly became an alumnus of Café Momentum and is thankful for the impact that the program and Houser have made on his life.
“When I got out, I met with Chad and it changed my life.” said Jolly. “Now I won’t do any of the things I use to do or even think about doing. I would never go back to that. Before Café Momentum, it wasn’t pretty. I still thank him to this day for bringing me out because I didn’t think I could do it alone.”
Nyzare Davis, a Café Momentum participant, was also grateful for the opportunity he was given. With the culinary arts always intriguing him, Davis is now aspiring to become a chef.
“I’ve been incarcerated for about four years and this is my first day off the grounds and it feels wonderful,” said Davis. “Café momentum has great people. Once I met Café Momentum, I knew I had a family.”
Furthermore, Naypaone Gaines, another recent graduate of the program, was among those who assisted the banquet staff with serving responsibilities at the Rams ‘Kickoff for Charity Luncheon’ in August. The event served as the team’s first touchpoint of the partnership with Café Momentum. A month later at the pop-up dinner at Rossoblu, Gaines was offered a job to sell 50/50 raffle tickets at Rams home games to raise money to assist Angelenos in need which is an opportunity he didn’t think was possible.
“It shows you that anything is possible,” said Gaines. “People have good hearts out there and those people really want to see us win no matter the circumstances.”