New Orleans, LA
2010 Director’s Community Leadership Awards
|New Orleans||Sister Mary Lou Specha
In New Orleans, Sister Mary Lou Specha works with at-risk youth at Café Reconcile, a non profit organization committed to stopping the generational cycle of poverty, violence, and neglect by providing life skills and job training programs.
Since 2000, Café Reconcile has graduated more than 500 youth between the ages of 16 and 22 from the nine-week program, empowering them to successfully enter the workforce.
As executive director, Sister Mary Lou Specha offers culinary arts training to more than 90 young people a year. Many of these youth come from a background of extreme poverty and horrific violence. In addition to helping students finish high school (more than 90 percent of Café Reconcile participants are high school dropouts), the program also teaches financial literacy, parenting, communication, and conflict resolution skills.
By encouraging personal growth, workforce development, and entrepreneurship, Café Reconcile works to place its graduates with local restaurants, including the Ritz-Carlton Hotel, the Roosevelt Hotel, Tulane University, and Oschner Hospitals.
After students graduate, their progress is tracked for four months. Café Reconcile has found that more than 60 percent of students successfully work for the entire period.