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August 31, 2022

Hands-on Learning with Café Friends

FriendsPDX activities and outings are multipurpose! Mentors and youth can connect; kids can practice the nine core assets we nurture; and youth can get hands-on skills in areas that interest them. There are also opportunities to meet peers and other members of the FriendsPDX community.

Direct, experiential learning provides a safe space to try something new and Café Friends is one way in which our adolescent youth can partake in this type of experience. Beginning in 2009ish, Café Friends has been a program that offers the youth we serve a chance to see what barista and café management can look like. It started when a Friend, Mike, received an espresso maker and then went a little overboard with the coffee! His wife requested he get rid of the machine. Mike brought the beverage device into Morris at the request of an adolescent youth he walked alongside. This youth showed interest in learning to use the machine, so instead of chucking it out, he brought it to the youth space and taught two teens how to use it.

Over the years, and to this day, Café Friends lives on! Middle school and high school freshmen-aged youth oversee the operations with guidance from Briana Dumas, Youth Engagement Program Manager and dedicated Café Friends organizer. To become part of the Café Friends Crew, youth participate in an information session, a try-out, and take a practice lesson with their mentor. After that, they complete an interview with Briana and the Café Friends Crew youth lead. From there, if a youth receives an offer, they study to obtain their food handler card and together, with the rest of the crew, create a menu, make a marketing plan, determine pricing, and learn how to make drinks like Italian Sodas, lattes, and more.

Mike’s explanation of Café Friends rings true today:

Ultimately, what we’re doing with Café Friends is an expansion of what we want to do with the youth we serve all the time: create opportunities, be available when they need it, and when they take off in pursuit of their passion, try to get the heck out of the way.

Some kids find it terrifying to talk with and take orders from people they don’t know. Luckily, these are the kids that make the fastest drinks! By the same token, some youth are natural sales [people] but struggle with the technical aspect. Everyone’s [able] to find their place.

Plus, it lends a chance for youth to try getting out of their comfort zone and practicing what might make them nervous in a safe, friendly environment. This year, the team will be working on translating their experience into their resume for future employment. Reflection will also be a key part of the process too, for this endeavor and beyond.