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Empowered Youth Inc. creates program to help young men

Vibe 305 a food truck delivers more than just snacks

Ashley Montgomery | 12/25/2013, 9 a.m.
Learning the business of serving up good food are Miami youth Frederick Wright, 18; Jose Isazi, 18; Alex Velasquez, 18; Rashad Perry, 19 and their instructor, Chef Emmanuel Richardson, 24. Photo by D. Kevin McNeir

Empowered Youth, Inc. is a non-profit organization, 501(c)3, that is devoted to transforming the lives of inner-city young men through unique opportunities. This community-based program has catered to young men, 15-18 years of age, since 2006 in South Florida and in Miami-Dade County since 2010.

Founder of the program and executive director, Colleen Adams, says that she is proud of this year's group of students and refers to them as “young businessmen.”

The project has two phases, the first geared towards transitioning at-risk youth towards a more productive life. Students participate in YES [Young Entrepreneur Series], a life-skills/character development curriculum that also provides mentors and tutors. The YES course is taught by University of Miami instructors and offers courses in graphic design, sales and marketing and culinary arts.

The second phase of the program seeks to create jobs and provide training and business opportunities to graduates. After graduation, students become eligible to become an independent partner where they create and expedite business models that they created themselves.

This year's class came up with idea of a food truck that they built from the ground-up — from the business plan to the cooking of the food.

“The goal is to create sustainable businesses that will change the dynamics of inner-city communities and families — an opportunity is the pathway out of the hood,” Adams said.

“Our food truck project is unique because we are a non-profit operating a training program to give inner-city boys a chance at a better life,” Adams said. “This project is a lifeline to our students and will keep many of these boys from continuing the cycle of poverty that hallmarks so many inner-city communities.”

The 12 young men have transformed themselves from troubled or simply uncertain teens to a group of businessmen with something to prove.

“The goal is to train, employ and provide entrepreneurial opportunities for every graduating student," said Emmanuel Richmond, 24, who is a certified chef and teaches the boys the skills they need to become culinary masters.

Richmond joins other chefs that are paired with young men, mentoring and training them so they can successfully run the Vibe 305 food truck.

According the Adams, the boys have dreams of expanding their truck into a franchised business. Vibe 305 is just one of many to come — Vibe 945, Vibe 407 and others are on the horizon.

Second chances

“There are all kinds of kids in the program — some court referred with a record, some have no resume or experience and need job/training,” Richmond said. “Some are just volunteers seeking exposure.”

The young men that are court ordered get a certificate of completion and their records are wiped clean according to Adams. According to their website, 87 percent of the graduates have remained out of the juvenile justice system.

“This helps put food on the table in a positive way," Adams added. "If we can get enough of these trucks on the road, we could really change the future."

The Vibe 305 truck is already on the road in downtown Miami. Six young men divide full-time hours so that they can offer breakfast, lunch and dinner at SE 1st Ave and Biscayne.

For more info go to www.empoweredyouthusa.com.

D. Kevin McNeir contributed to this report.