PROFESSIONAL ATHLETES AND JUSTICE-INVOLVED YOUTH
TEAM UP TO CREATE HOPE AND POSSIBILITY
ONE HOT HONEY CHICKEN BISCUIT AT A TIME
Café Momentum, Players coalition, and Stand Together Foundation brought life-changing experiences back to the Super Bowl in Phoenix, AZ for the second year in a row.
- Café Momentum is an award-winning Dallas-based nonprofit restaurant staffed almost entirely by youth exiting the juvenile justice system.
- Players Coalition is a nonprofit founded by NFL players Anquan Boldin and Malcolm Jenkins, dedicated to impacting social justice and racial inequality. The Players Coalition continues to grow exponentially with representation from more than 1,500 athlete advocates across twelve professional leagues.
- Stand Together Foundation is a philanthropic organization committed to breaking the cycle of poverty in America.
The three organizations worked together to host a free pop-up food truck at the Media Center on Radio Row just before Super Bowl 57 in Phoenix to demonstrate an alternative way to lean in and mentor justice-involved youth.
This pop-up activation is the latest collaboration between the three groups. The partners have hosted previous events with NFL athletes and Legends, including a pop-up dinner in Miami for Super Bowl LIV and a pop-up food truck and black carpet dinner for Super Bowl LVI in Los Angeles.
Café Momentum’s famous hot honey chicken and biscuits—a staple from Cafe Momentum’s brick-and-mortar- restaurants were prepared and served by graduates and ambassadors of the program to athletes, celebrities, and media on Radio Row. The food truck pop-up activation highlights the success of Café Momentum’s approach to youth justice and builds momentum for the model’s nationwide expansion.
Our team at Sports Philanthropy Network attended the event for the second year in a row. We spoke with the ambassadors and advisors about the impact of Café Momentum on reducing recidivism, increasing high school graduation rates, and creating economic and workforce advancement for justice-involved youth nationwide.
SPN Intern, Ilana Zariski said, “Seeing the amazing things that can be done through the merging of these three organizations was something special to witness. Giving a voice and an avenue for change for those leaving the juvenile justice system creates a lasting impact that has the potential to be felt throughout America and which was certainly felt throughout my time at the event.”
Chad Houser, Founder of Café Momentum and Momentum Advisory Collective, told our team, “Anybody can use the most powerful and wealthiest thing that they have…which is their voice. Anybody can demand change. What we’ve done at Café Momentum is create a new model for youth justice in this country. Café Momentum is an ecosystem of support for system-involved youth. It is proof that young people can and will rise to whatever level of expectation is on them as long as the community provides the tools, resources, and opportunities for them to do so to achieve their full potential in life.”
Café Momentum is an award-winning restaurant and culinary training facility aimed to transform young lives by equipping justice-involved youth with life skills, education, and employment opportunities to help them achieve their full potential. The primary goal is to build a sustainable model that provides justice-impacted youth (ages 15-19) with the holistic support they need to thrive.
The pop-up food truck at Radio Row in Phoenix brought together an array of athletes, including NFL Legend, Players Coalition Member and Stand Together Ambassador Shaun Alexander. Players Coalition Co-founder, 2015 Walter Payton Man of the Year and Super Bowl XLVII Champion Anquan Bolden was also present. NFL linebacker and Stand Together Ambassador Dhani Jones was in attendance along with criminal justice reform advocate Alice Marie Johnson, and other credentialed media, celebrities and fans to enjoy the famous hot honey chicken and biscuits.
The meal was prepared and served by graduates and ambassadors of the Momentum program, allowing attendees to meet some of the young people who have come out of the juvenile system and witness what they can accomplish with the proper support and opportunities.
Shaun Alexander, former NFL MVP and 2007 Madden Cover Athlete, was on-hand to speak with our team. His simple message hit hard in a brilliant way, “There’s something in all of us that’s special. Let’s go win together.”
“That’s what this is all about: collaborating to create hope and possibility for the youth who need it most and working together to find creative solutions to some of our nation’s most pressing problems,” said Sports Philanthropy Network EVP Kayla Bradham.
The Momentum model was co-created with the youth it serves, and the vision is to inspire a new model for youth justice. Of a recent youth cohort, zero percent have been adjudicated or reconvicted. These youth are gaining life skills, education, and employment opportunities to help them lead lives of meaning and contribution.
Stand Together Foundation supports the work of Café Momentum. The foundation is committed to breaking the cycle of poverty in America by driving change from within communities. They are building a community of social entrepreneurs who believe in people, work from the bottom up, and are willing to unite with anyone to do right. Since 2016, they have committed over $120 million and counting to fuel the innovation of nonprofits throughout the country to build stronger, safer communities where all people can learn, contribute, and realize their full potential. They aim to help nonprofit leaders maximize their impact to transform more lives out of poverty.
Senior Momentum Ambassador Rose Chadwick joined Sports Philanthropy Network at the Momentum lunch to share her testimony. Rose is passionate about youth justice, having experienced the system firsthand. As a minor, she was unable to advocate for herself. In her interview with Sports Philanthropy Network, she was vulnerable and transparent:
“I ended up in the system at 15 because I lost my dad to prison. It impacted me a lot not having that father figure. I was on probation from the age of 15 to 18, and I was also in human trafficking that whole time. I was in the juvenile system, on the streets, and in human trafficking. I honestly didn’t think I would be alive to make it to age 18, but I did. After I aged out, that is how I found Café Momentum’s program. It was my first real job. I never had any experience working at all. I didn’t think I could do it, but I did. It was incredible!”
She went on to say, “The trauma impacted me. The juvenile justice system impacted me…not being able to have a voice, not being able to advocate on my behalf, and not being able to change the direction I was going in. Your voice is taken away when you’re a juvenile. Being able to advocate on my behalf through Café Momentum’s program and now traveling with them as a National Ambassador, I get to spread the word about how this incredible program made me a better me and helped me find my gifts and talents within myself.”
She concludes, “I love that my voice and story create change. It’s creating impact. The system needs to change. We need to make it better. We need to allow youth to have a say in what will allow them to do better and what will keep them out of jail and not go back. Let’s help them find their gifts and talents and use those skills to make a difference so they can succeed in life.”
Shaun Alexander added to the conversation, reminding us about how important it is for people of influence to get involved, “My goal is to awaken the identity in people. Sometimes that means you have to awaken the calling in other people. I want to stir everybody to understand that they are needed. Some people have wealth and knowledge. Some people do the work on the ground, and others have influence. Whenever those three types of people get together, they change the culture and community. I’m trying to do my part. There is a role for everybody here to get involved.”
Evan Feinberg, Executive Director of Stand Together Foundation, part of the broader Stand Together philanthropic community continued, “Our vision is to transform communities across the country so that they break the cycle of poverty, bridging the divide, and help every person to realize their full potential. There are 40 million Americans experiencing poverty. 100-140 million are in or near poverty. Social mobility is on the decline. Deaths of despair in our country are rising to the point where we’ve had a drop in life expectancy for three straight years. We’ve wiped out all the gains in technology and healthcare and are back to 1996 levels, because people are without hope and living in despair. I believe that we can turn those things around and help many more people to realize their full potential both directly through incredible efforts like Café Momentum, but more importantly, even by inspiring each one of us to see our neighbors differently, to see people who are experiencing barriers for their strengths and not their deficiencies, and to empower them to be the best version of themselves.”
The three groups who collaborated to put this lunch together are demonstrating a system that allows young people who are coming out of the juvenile justice system to entirely turn their lives around. They are successful not by managing the symptoms of formerly incarcerated youth, but by showing us how the staff of one of the best restaurants in Dallas and other restaurants across the country are providing communities with world-class food and service in cooperation with at-risk youth. Corporations spend billions of dollars on improving their internal systems. Local, State, and Federal systems would be wise to actively find better ways to improve our criminal justice system and other broken or inefficient systems.
Speaking with the interns and ambassadors who were preparing and serving the food, shaking hands and taking interviews, who were capable and competent contributors of the event did not go unnoticed. Our team and the others in attendance witnessed their full potential, not their past mistakes or the barriers that they have faced. Not only are these young men and women changing their own lives, but they are inspiring every single person they serve!
“When we met Rose and the other interns and ambassadors, we realized that even though these young people have been through the juvenile justice system, they have the same needs, hopes, and dreams as every other teenager. These kids have been through a lot. We are looking forward to finding ways to collaborate with this group of organizations to do our part at Sports Philanthropy Network,” said Founder Roy Kessel.
Café Momentum’s model is powerful and transformative. They have found a solution to transform our broken criminal justice system, creating hope and possibility for youth coming out of incarceration one hot honey and chicken biscuit at a time.
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