Now-serving-justice-A-new-workforce-development-program-aims-to-help-at-risk-youth

Now serving justice: A new workforce development program aims to help at-risk youth

Now serving justice: A new workforce development program aims to help at-risk youth
Fitting New Orleans – Issue 4
September 1, 2009

Like most classic New Orleans eateries, at Liberty’s Kitchen you’ll find traditional red beans and rice on Mondays along with a variety of other local favorites. What’s special about this new eatery goes beyond enticing taste buds; it’s the second chance being given to at-risk New Orleans youth that makes its flavor so unique.

Liberty’s Kitchen is a social organization that aims to transform the lives of New Orleans’ youth by providing a path to self-sufficiency through a 12-week, food service-based workforce development program. The full service café and catering business opened in June 2009, and accepted its first class of students on July 13, 2009.

The Youth Development program is offered to youth in Orleans Parish, ages 16-20, who are invited to participate based on referrals from community members and personal applications. A maximum of eight participants at any one time are selected based on motivation and risk of entering the juvenile justice system for the first time or recidivism.

“With the opening of the cafe and coffee shop and the launch of our Youth Development Program, all of us at Liberty’s Kitchen are living our dream – to serve the youth of New Orleans who deserve a chance for success,” said Janet Davas, executive director of Liberty’s Kitchen.

Through the Tulane University Prevention Research Center’s Health Promotion Practicum program, Anne Rapin developed a detailed plan to evaluate Liberty Kitchen’s Youth Development program. The plan includes keeping a detailed record of participation, skills learned, knowledge gained, and perceived support and success. Additionally, participants’ success in the workforce, future interactions with the criminal justice system, depression or anxiety, and educational development will be assessed periodically to determine the long-term impact of the program.

“Developing an evaluation plan for Liberty’s Kitchen before operations began was a tremendous learning opportunity for me,” said Rapin. “The plan will only help an already devoted staff continue to improve their program.”

Liberty’s Kitchen’s Youth Development program is divided into four stages, and participants receive stipends based on their training level. Along with workforce training, participants are tutored to improve their literacy and math skills.

While Liberty’s Kitchen is an independent entity, it receives some organizational guidance from Kitchens with Missions, a successful non-profit organization that specializes in food service-based training as a means for community development.

Recidivism is a real problem in New Orleans, where according to the 2009 Blueprint for Juvenile Justice Reform, approximately 70 percent of youth released from secure care committed another crime. Programs like Liberty’s Kitchen’s are essential to ensuring at-risk youth don’t enter or fall back into the juvenile justice system.

Topics:   practicum

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