Recess Cafe opens in downtown Ferndale, empowers LGBTQ youth with life and business skills

After spending the past eight weeks learning about business development, marketing, inventory, and budgeting, the young people of the Affirmations Youth Workforce Program have reached the culmination of their hard work with the grand opening of the Recess Cafe in downtown Ferndale. An open mic night helped ring in the celebration.

Though the classroom portion of the program has come to a close, the Youth Workforce Program will now spend the next eight weeks gaining hands-on experience while actually operating the cafe. Recess Cafe operates every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday from 4 to 8 p.m. through mid-January.

Affirmations, the community center for people that identify as LGBTQ and their allies, runs two 16-week cohorts of the Youth Workforce Development program per year. Cohorts are typically made up of ten to twelve people that identify as LGBTQ, ages 16 to 24 years old.

In addition to the business skills learned, those enrolled in the program also receive monetary stipends to cover travel costs and the time served working the cafe. Members of the local business community make up a business advisory council to advise the youth.

Ian Unger, Youth Program Coordinator at Affirmations, says that both the youth program and Affirmations itself exist to empower people.

"Young people come to Affirmations to find a safe space and to develop life skills," says Unger. "We want to prepare these kids to become the next leaders in their communities."

Each cohort decides how Recess Cafe will be run. The current iteration features an outer space theme, coinciding with the students' idea that Recess Cafe is a space for everyone. Space decorations and space-themed events complement the cafe. Open mics and craft-making nights also make up the programming schedule for the next eight weeks.

The cafe itself features standard fare, including hot chocolate, coffee, tea, smoothies, and root beer. Snacks include jerky, cookies, candy, and other treats.

Recess Cafe is open to the public. It is located in the Affirmations building at 290 W. 9 Mile Rd. in downtown Ferndale.

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MJ Galbraith is a writer and musician living in Detroit. Follow him on Twitter @mikegalbraith.