Curt’s Café Gives Youth Living in At-Risk Situations Their Chance at Success — Help Them Sustain the Momentum

Curt’s Café will hold its 8th annual Party with Purpose on Saturday, Oct. 10  at 6:30pm. The virtual gala, celebrating 10 success stories on 10-10, will be hosted by Emmy Award-winning host of ABC 7’s Windy City Live, Val Warner. Jahmal Cole, Founder and CEO of the fastest growing social impact organization, My Block My Hood My City, with be the keynote speaker. 

“I am honored to have been asked to speak at Curt’s Annual Gala. We have a shared vision to make a difference in young lives and I look forward to building a partnership with them,” Cole said.

Curt’s Café’s mission is to improve the outcomes for young adults living in at risk situations through work and life skills training. To date, Curt’s has served more than 400 students.

In 2012, Susan Garcia Trieschmann, founder and executive director for Curt’s Cafe, opened the first café in Evanston. Trieschmann’s inspiration materialized while working with Restorative Justice Evanston, a grassroots organization built by many non-profits. The Evanston Police Department’s Social Services arm asked for support with a Restorative Circle that included three youth, and that circle began to define how the community could change the at risk youth landscape. Trieschmann repeatedly heard from kids who had been through the justice system that they would not get into trouble if they had a job. 

 “The reality is they couldn’t get jobs because they often had extensive judicial records, lacked the skills to get a job or the teachers and mentors to work with them,” Trieschmann said. That sparked the flame for Curt’s Café.

Curt’s students, age 15 through 24, are living in at risk situations such as homelessness, food insecurity, contact with the judicial system, or they have dropped out of school. For these young adults, being able to get and hold a job contributes immeasurably toward their success. Since opening in 2012, only 3 percent of Curt’s students have returned to prison. State and national rates are both above 80 percent. Curt’s works!

In 2019, Curt’s opened its third café in Highland Park. In March, both the Evanston and Highland Park cafes closed for regular business and pivoted quickly to meet the needs of the community by providing meals and groceries to a wide variety of area non-profits. Through secured grants, the Highland Park Café has provided boxes of groceries and household supplies for families in need throughout Lake County. In total, Curt’s has fed more than 5,000 people during this unprecedented time. Prior to the pandemic, sales at both cafés have covered approximately 50 percent of the costs of running the student program, while the other 50 percent comes from grants, donations, events and sponsors. Due to Covid-19, sales have been down 75 percent from this same time period last year. 

The goal for this year’s gala is to fill the income gap that the pandemic has created in order for us to continue the work force and life skills training that enables Curt’s students to succeed.

Tickets are available for purchase at https://curts.givesmart.com