Empowering everyone to find fulfilling work
Shaun Alexander — former NFL MVP with the Seattle Seahawks — came to his first Stand Together Summit in January wanting to make a greater difference with his philanthropy.
At that Summit, he met Chad Houser, founder of Café Momentum — a top-ranked restaurant in Dallas that’s staffed by an unusual workforce: kids who are exiting the juvenile justice system. Houser told Alexander that, on average, nearly 50% of kids leaving juvenile detention return within a year. But for young people who go through a 12-month, paid internship with Café Momentum, 85% never return to jail. Young people are using these internships — and the confidence and skills that come with them — as a springboard to more fulfilling lives.
Shaun was fired up. He began working with the team at the Stand Together Foundation to think about ways to transform and extend the concept. What if they took the restaurant to Nashville, home of the 2019 NFL Draft? It wasn’t long before Café Momentum had launched a temporary “pop-up” restaurant in Nashville. A group of kids from the local juvenile detention center got a crash course in restaurant service for an event that included Stand Together philanthropists, NFL players and the mayor of Nashville.
After the event, one young participant said, “Having these people come in … coming to tell me I’ve got potential, that I can do things, and showing me I could — that really had a great effect on me.”
Now Shaun’s goal is to help expand Café Momentum to all 32 NFL cities. He recruited several current and former NFL players to get involved as well, propelling a virtuous cycle that will not only help young people nationwide transform their lives but also change how society thinks about the potential of bottom-up solutions like Café Momentum that can empower people to find fulfilling work.