Teresa Goines, founder and CEO of Old Skool Cafe, is devoting her life to combating Juvenile incarceration and supporting at-risk youth in the Bay Area.
Teresa Goines was just 22 years old when she worked as a corrections officer in a Santa Barbara County juvenile hall. Upon discovering the traumatic narratives and broken opportunities that incarcerated youth had endured throughout their upbringing, Goines became motivated to figure out a way to guide young people away from the ensnaring cycle.
“I felt certain that simply locking them up wasn’t the way to respond. This conviction is what prompted me to create Old Skool Cafe,” she says, describing the origins of the San Francisco-based youth-run supper club where at-risk and formerly incarcerated young people, ages 16 to 22, have the opportunity to make valuable connections within the community and gain significant work experience.
Goines with some of the youth who are part of the Old Skool Cafe program outside the iconic location
At Old Skool, food truly brings people together. Goines describes dining at the eatery as “a magical experience,” where jazz is performed live by youth daily, bringing energy and life to the space. The exclusive menu specializes in international soul food, an ode to the staff’s diverse cultural backgrounds. “Each young person gets the opportunity to submit their favorite family recipe and teach us how to make it,” Goines says.
No two days are ever the same for Goines. However, there are core values that the Old Skool crew upholds consistently. “Connection and gratitude are the pillars of our day, every day,” she says. The staff gathers ritually for a preshift meeting to convey what they are all grateful for before getting to work.
Despite the difficulties that the coronavirus pandemic has presented, the laser-focused team has maintained the restaurant’s eclectic reputation. “Our team understands that we’re part of something larger than ourselves,” Goines explains.
As for the future of Old Skool Cafe, Goines says, “Our desire is to see youth across our nation have the same opportunity as our youth have at Old Skool Cafe to turn their lives around.”