BALTIMORE — When many have given up on at risk teens, one woman hasn’t. Holly Gray is the executive director and founder of CUPs (Create Unlimited Possibilities) Coffeehouse, a café in West Baltimore that aims to give local at-risk youth a professional insight into the work world.
Gray opened CUPs Coffeehouse, a non-profit organization, in August of 2012. She wanted to create a work place for at-risk youth, where she could employ and empower them to become financially independent. She teaches young people job skills that they will be able to use throughout their careers including communication and behavioral management. The hope is for her employees to become mentors and community leaders.
“I love kids,” said Gray. “I am tired of them not being afforded the same opportunities I had when I was growing up.
The CUPs Coffeehouse employs young men and women from the ages of 16 to 24. They go through a training period and once hired, can expect to work twelve hours a week and complete eight hours of community service. The job lasts for a year and enrollment is open twice a year.
“They’re amazing, they’re resilient and strong, and determined,” said Gray.
CUPs employee Day’Zhaunae Brown, was introduced to the coffeehouse by her grandfather, a regular customer of the neighborhood café. Her title is now barista. Although she has only been employed at CUPs for a few months, she said she has already improved her time management skills.
The environment at CUPs is inviting and diverse. They have many events each month; ranging from open mic night to children’s story time. Soon CUPs will be launching a new mentoring program and a newsletter.
Gray partnered with the University of Baltimore and MDCC AmeriCorps for the mentoring program. The program will provide each employee with a mentor to help guide them along their professional path. The newsletter is also a new venture for the coffee house. The publication will be created for the youth and by the youth.
Gray gave up a lucrative job to open the café but said she doesn’t miss the money, “I am more happy than I have ever been in my life, ” said noted.
For more information about CUPs Coffeehouse call 410-685-2878.