Echo Glen Youth Become Baristas

March 11, 2020
youth pouring coffee

The youth at Echo Glen are frothing up their resumes with work experience at Café Success! As part of Echo Glen’s Resident Culinary Program, Café Success provides vocational training for future baristas and the hospitality industry.

Mark Cushing, Echo Glen Food Service Manager, started the program in 2016 with a portable barista cart. With the success of the cart, Mark convinced JR leadership to purchase an espresso machine and by 2017, 13 residents were training in the program. By 2018, the number exploded to 62, and now in 2020 Café Success is a fully equipped commercial café training nearly 80 kids annually.

“One of the normal things kids want is a job, but with a criminal background they feel very defeated. So I show them going into culinary or hospitality is something they can do while they work toward their goals,” says Mark.

Echo Glen offers the culinary program as part of its curriculum, so youth can earn high school credit or, if they decide to go to Renton Technical College later on, they can put those credits straight toward earning their college degree.

Mark explains that students re-entering the community or transferring to a JR community facility are getting jobs in restaurants and cafes. “Many of our youth place in food industry jobs. Some of them even have interviews scheduled the same day they leave Echo Glen,” he says.

Through Café Success, youth are gaining valuable customer service and social skills, learning how to take food orders, how to deliver beverages, pull espresso shots, steam milk, clean shop – you name it! “They’ve learned how to do all kinds of things. They’ll say, ‘That was the scariest thing I’ve ever done, and when can we do it again?’” Mark says. “We’re introducing them to things they never even dreamed they could do, and that’s the reward for me.”