When Teresa Goines is invited to speak for an audience, she loves sharing the story of how unqualified she was to open Cora Jean’s Old Skool Cafe—a jazz supper club and restaurant training program for at-risk and formerly incarcerated youth in the Bayview. She didn’t have restaurant experience, the backing of a celebrity chef, or lots of money. She hadn’t lived with gangs or mass incarceration and didn’t have a background in business or non-profits. But she had a vision and she refused to let it go.
Goines, who hails from Tucson, Arizona, worked for two years as a juvenile correctional officer after graduating with a degree in psychology from Westmont College. She realized how many young people were hurting, and how incarceration was contributing to the cycle of suffering. She couldn’t help youth the way she wanted within the confines of her job, so she decided to start Old Skool Cafe.
The restaurant has come a long way from its humble roots operating out of Goines’s living room. Old Skool places graduates in high-paying industry jobs across the city, boasts the backing of big-name supporters like Steph and Ayesha Curry and has an ongoing partnership with celebrity chef Michael Mina. “Come hungry, leave inspired,” is the restaurant’s tagline.
As proof of its success, Goines points to the recidivism rate of those who have completed at least one year in the program, which by her calculations is 10%. The national average is nearly 70% three years after release, according to the U.S. Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Statistics.
Goines named the restaurant after her 82-year-old mother, Cora Jean, who modeled faith through action and poured her love into others. Alumni of the Old Skool program refer to her as “grandma,” just as they call Goines “mama T”—at Old Skool, it’s all in the family.
Photos courtesy of Old Skool Cafe.
Inspiring people to action.
Technology breaking, overscheduling.
Faith and the example of my mother, Cora Jean.
Shifting the way we respond to our young people who are hurting.