Founder Teresa Goines was a juvenile corrections officer in Southern California
Do you know a hero?
Nominations are open for 2013 CNN Heroes
San Francisco (CNN) -- As a juvenile corrections officer in Southern California, Teresa Goines found it rewarding to work with troubled youth and help them turn their lives around.
said, they would call and say they wanted to come back.
"That would break my heart," she
"I'd be all tough during the day and drive home at night and cry."
felt that by sending these young men home without enough support to keep them on the right track, the system was essentially setting them up to fail.
Finding a well-paying job can be a tough proposition when you have a criminal record, Goines
wanted to provide an alternative to gangs, knowing that such groups often give troubled youth a way to make money while providing a sense of family and social support.
came up with the idea for the Old Skool Cafe
, a 1940s-style restaurant run entirely by young people from difficult circumstances.
The bistro is in one of San Francisco's roughest neighborhoods, but inside, the atmosphere is warm and inviting.
Customers come from all over the city to enjoy the food and entertainment and to support Goines'
mission, which provides jobs, career training and a built-in support system to at least 25 at-risk people each year.
, a Christian, also offers to share her
religious faith with any program participant who is interested, but she
says that her
program is completely inclusive and welcomes everyone, regardless of their beliefs.
The restaurant's theme is inspired by Harlem in the late 1920s through the '40s, and the staff is decked out in red-and-black uniforms from the time period.
loves the music and spirit of that era and knew it would be a cool, unique vibe that would help attract customers, but she
also had another motive.
"From the Harlem Renaissance to ... jazz and swing, so much of that was started by African-Americans," she
Other days, you'll bus tables or be the head chef," Goines
"The whole structure of this organization is meant for the youth to keep rising up in leadership and management," Goines
"I'm a big believer in ownership. ...
"(Goines) pushes you past your comfort zone and past whatever limits you give yourself, " she
Stories like this are what motivate Goines
She wants to establish other Old Skool Cafes across the country, and she hopes that some of the young people she's working with now will help her.
"I think there's something about a light going on when you realize your potential," she