Flying Fruit and Starbucks join forces to empower youth

 Cafe at UB Law works hard to improve Baltimore

By Elizabeth McMahon

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Flying Fruit Cafe, located on the sixth floor of the UB Law School, became a “Proudly We Serve” Starbucks location on March 1.

“We’re going to keep our fruit shakes and smoothies, and we are working on our own spin on Frappuccinos,” Leorah Weiss-Newall, service coordinator and supervisor of the cafe, told the UB Post. “It’s been a lot busier since Starbucks came in. This year has been our busiest yet.”

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Flying Fruit Cafe is part of the Choice Program, operating out of the University of Maryland, which provides advocacy, education and job training for at-risk youth in Maryland with limited resources. The Choice Program works with youths referred by the Department of Juvenile Services and the Department of Social Services, as well as students in three Baltimore City schools.

“We provide aggressive intervention to stabilize young people in their communities,” Zeevelle Nottingham-Lemon, Associate Director of social enterprise and jobs programming, shared of the Choice Program’s foster care diversion and suspension reduction efforts.

The Choice Program’s social enterprises include the Flying Fruit Cafe at UB, as well as two fruit shake stands downtown, both called Flying Fruit Fantasy.

Choice provides education in a classroom setting to its youth, then places them in real jobs to get acquainted with the work force. “They get a full curriculum on work skills, like how to get up on time, work around their housing challenges, and how to be successful at work,” Nottingham-Lemon told The UB Post. “Every youth is fully immersed in a training program, learning what it really means to interact with customers.”

DSC_1803_EDITEDEnjoy a muffin guilt-free, with every purchase benefitting the Choice Program.

After six weeks of job-readiness education with the Choice Program’s Americorps fellows, students work for a full semester at one of the Flying Fruit locations.

“I’m hoping we can funnel most of our kids into Starbucks,” Weiss-Newell shared. “We’re moving our educational program into the Starbucks Opportunity Cafe,” a new location that opened on Friday, March 17 at 1812 Ashland Avenue in East Baltimore.

Starbucks Opportunity Cafes partner with non-profits to provide education, training and job readiness to young people in areas with limited resources. At the Ashland Avenue location, the Choice Program will be the resident non-profit.

“Starbucks has been amazing,” Nottingham-Lemon gushed. They have hosted few hiring events for Choice Program youths, and extended job offers to 35 of them so far.

The Flying Fruit Cafe accepts Bee Cards and has a loyalty drink program. They have spacious tables, bright natural light and, of course, a strong focus on customer service.

The Choice Program has “plenty of volunteer opportunities, including a community event on the anniversary of the Baltimore uprising,” Weiss-Newall shared. “Art Rising” will be held on April 26 at 1309 Homewood Avenue (two blocks from UB) from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., and will be an opportunity for community members to gather, reflect, create art, listen to local music and enjoy food together.

Nottingham-Lemon encourages “any local artists willing to run workshops or people interested in coaching our summer basketball camp” to get involved with Choice. All of their events and news can be found on The Choice Program Facebook page.

 

Photos by Hailey Chaudron

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