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Helping Youth Find Work, One Cup At A Time

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MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — A local coffee company is celebrating a big milestone: 10 years in business. But this isn’t your typical coffee company. The money made helps young people land jobs.

One-hundred percent of City Kid Java’s profits go to what the general manager calls a local “epidemic.” The company is fighting low graduation and high unemployment rates.

With the help of City Kid Java, high school senior Shan-E Marshall scored a job interview.

“I’ve been wanting a job for a long time,” she said. “I didn’t think I was going to get it because I’m not good with stuff like that.”

Marshall is now a barista at a City Kid Java coffee booth at the University of Minnesota. She has steady hours and a steady paycheck to help save for college.

“I like not having to depend on my mom (and) my father,” she said.

The break she so desperately needed came from City Kid Java and Urban Ventures. Their mission is to help youth in the Phillips and Central neighborhoods of south Minneapolis.

The idea is simple. City Kid sells coffee, the profit goes to Urban Ventures, Urban Ventures uses the money for afterschool programs and to help neighborhood kids find work.

“(Our) unemployment rate (is) three-times the national average. Our graduation rate from HS is less than 35 percent,” Urban Ventures CEO Tim Clark said.

Clark says the campus of Urban Ventures — which includes The Center for Fathering, The Learning Lab, and the Hub — provides a safe haven for neighborhood youth and families.

Owning a growing coffee company provides Urban Ventures a financial jolt. The company sells coffee online, at retail stores, coffee shops, and direct to businesses.

“We’re able to go into big companies, big churches, be on the shelves at Target and create awareness that there really is an epidemic here in the inner city in that our kids here really do need help and resources,” City Kid Java general manager Jenifer Hagness said.

City Kid is coffee with a conscience. And Marshall  is proof.

“I’m grateful for them giving me the job, because they didn’t have to,” she said.

During the last three years, Urban Ventures has helped more than 300 people find work. Most of the positions are full time, and the non-profit is placing more workers each year.

City Kid Java is available online and at select stores in Minnesota, including Target, Cub Foods, and Whole Foods.

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