Café Momentum and Players Coalition served a lot more than food at the Super Bowl
America has a failed approach to juvenile and criminal justice. Cafe Momentum is showing a better way.
The Super Bowl is an annual destination for sports fans from around the world. People traveled far and wide to attend this year’s nail-biting game in Arizona, in which the Kansas City Chiefs beat the Philadelphia Eagles in the final seconds.
As a bonus, a few days before opening kickoff fans sampled delicious hot honey chicken and biscuits (or the vegan option) from one of the most unique restaurants in America – and staffed almost entirely by youth exiting the juvenile justice system.
Café Momentum, a Dallas-based nonprofit restaurant employs justice-involved youth between the ages of 15 and 19. With the success of the Dallas restaurant, founder and CEO Chad Houser is opening locations in Nashville and Pittsburgh—with dreams of opening restaurants and workforce development programs in all 32 cities with NFL teams in the next decade.
The organization not only trains teenagers to work in all facets of hospitality, but also coaches them in life and social skills through continual mentoring and development training, while also providing financial education, parenting classes, educational assistance, and career exploration opportunities.
The results are transformative. Since 2015, the youth who participate in Café Momentum’s paid internship program showed recidivism rates that were one-third of the average rate in Texas. What’s more, in a recent cohort, nearly 89% of participants were enrolled in high school, had graduated, or achieved their GED.
Some of those justice-involved youth were serving up Café Momentum’s chicken and biscuits at the 2023 Super Bowl Experience. Partnering with Players Coalition and Stand Together Foundation, the Café Momentum crew spent two days in the Arizona sun feeding media, athletes and fans.
As one of the world’s largest sporting events, the Super Bowl provided the perfect venue for Café Momentum to spread awareness about not only the problems young people face when exiting the juvenile justice system, but also practical solutions that are showing real results.
Anquan Boldin was the 2015-16 Walter Payton Man of the Year. As a co-founder of Players Coalition, a public charity that advocates for social justice and racial equity across America, he’s grateful that organizations like Café Momentum are making a difference.
“As athletes, we have a fortunate opportunity to amplify what our communities desperately need. Right now, they need change for our youth who are exiting the justice system. That change starts with us. By partnering with NFL Inspire Change, Café Momentum, and Stand Together, we all hope to continue to bring awareness of our current juvenile justice system and the need for programs like this that will reshape young lives.”
NFL Legend and Stand Together Ambassador Shaun Alexander knows all about playing in Super Bowls—as well as the impact that Café Momentum is having on the juvenile justice system. As he says,
“Café Momentum has created one of the most positive, influential models I’ve seen for justice-impacted youth. They are creating a family for the kids in the juvenile justice system and the results are winning their futures. I believe this can change the juvenile justice system and like I’ve said before, my goal is to have a Café Momentum in all NFL cities. Activating at the Super Bowl is a step closer to making that a reality.”
“I love our mission to raise awareness and become leaders so we can change the system and mindsets,” says 19-year-old Senior Momentum Ambassador Cameron Carver.
Carver isn’t the only Ambassador who knows the importance of opportunities. Nineteen-year-old Tristyn Williams’s life was transformed thanks to the restaurant. She says, “The person I am now is because of Café Momentum. The Ambassador Program gives me the opportunity to be on the other side — giving the help vs. receiving it — and that means everything to me.”
“I’m proud to be a part of Stand Together Foundation’s mission to empower others to become the best versions of themselves,” said Alice Marie Johnson, CEO of Taking Action for Good, as well as a criminal justice reform advocate and Stand Together ambassador.
“Programs like Café Momentum are critical because they hold people accountable while also uplifting them and helping them get on the path to success. This program is proving that, when given the proper support from the community, the sky’s the limit for these young and talented individuals.”
Adela Rodriguez is among the youth that’s found a family, and opportunity, at the restaurant. As the 18-year-old Momentum Ambassador says, “Without Café Momentum and their support system, I wouldn’t be where I am today; physically and mentally, I’m in a better place. My purpose is to help and motivate others. Now I am at the Super Bowl and excited to help create change!”
This year’s Super Bowl will go down in the history books—for the players, as well as Café Momentum. As Chad Houser continues to drive this organization forward, over 1,000 youth are demonstrating that through the Momentum model, our communities can provide the necessary support for young people to achieve their full potential.
As he concludes, “We are spreading awareness of the failures of our nation’s juvenile justice system by offering a better way to transform the lives of justice-impacted youth.”
Learn more about Stand Together’s criminal justice reform efforts.