Edgewater cafe provides jobs for unemployed youth in Chicago

CHICAGO (WLS) -- It's a startling snapshot of Illinois unemployed youth.

According to research by the University of Illinois at Chicago, 70 percent of people ages 16-24 don't have jobs. But Helix Cafe is hoping to help lower that number.

"Helix Café is a space where we build transferable skills and pathways for youth in Chicago. We see this massive youth unemployment rate that happens after school or during school for many youths that leads to long term economic stress," said Caitlin Botsios, Helix Cafe Co-Founder and chief innovation officer.

Botsios and her former college roommate, Sean Connolly, started the cafe together with one goal in mind: to help the youth in their community.

"It's not that interesting to just run a coffee shop for us," said Connolly, Helix Cafe chief executive officer. "So we really wanted to try to leverage our experiences to do our best to help."

The cafe is intended to be a space for 16- to 24-year-olds to get a job and learn personal and professional development.

Employees at the cafe go through a six-month training program that focuses on a variety of skills.

"In the first phase we're really working on the foundational skills to work here," Connolly said. "So we're training you on the specifics of this café, customer service basics, basics of coffee, basics of food, etc."

"From there, everyone works shifts and then also has paid professional development time," Botsios added. "Things like group sessions and one on ones where we are learning about collaboration, teamwork, time management and using the experience on the job to amplify those."

The cafe has 14 employees, with ages ranging from 16 to 21. The eldest is Kenya Farley, a college student.

"It's more of like building skills to becoming an adult, like stuff that should be taught in school. Other jobs just want you to work there and just work there for the rest of your life, that's not Helix's goal - their goal is to build us to get ready for salary jobs and careers. This job cares about us," Farley said.

Helix Cafe
6237 N Clark St.
(773) 942-6094
https://www.helixchicago.com/cafe
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