The death of Dajae Coleman in September left Evanstonians reeling at the agonizing reality of deadly violence among local youth. Coming just 2 years after the shooting death of Leslie Calvin, another Evanston teen, community members from across Evanston have come together to propose solutions: a gun buyback program, increased funding for youth sports and after-school activities and for expanded youth programs at the Park District and the Library.

On Central Street, a revolutionary program has been quietly working to support troubled Evanston youth in a deliciously radical way. Curt’s Cafe, an unassuming-looking coffee and sandwich shop, works to satisfy Evanston’s appetite for social justice as well as healthy food. Opened this past April under the leadership of executive director Susan Trieschmann, the Cafe provides training, in food service and life skills, for at-risk youth in Evanston, teens and young adult who have either had encounters with the criminal justice system, or who are heading down that path.

The Cafe also serves as a gathering place for those interested in teen issues.
In September, the Youth Job Center sponsored a “Community Conversation” at Curt’s Cafe, in which leaders from the high school, the McGaw YMCA, and other youth serving organizations brainstormed ways the community could work together to improve life for Evanston teens. On Dec. 1, the Cafe hosted a teen leadership forum to help teens develop long-term goals and to identify the tools they need to develop to reach them.

Ms. Trieschmann has ambitious goals of her own for Curt’s Cafe: “My goal is to help the youth move through our program successfully. That’s our number one goal. The long-term goal, as far as growth, would be being able to offer the Curt’s Cafe training model to other youth in other communities through multiple locations.”

Susan Trieschmann and several of her protégés will speak at a program on Dec. 15, “Changing Direction at Curt’s Cafe: Teen Violence Prevention in Evanston,” 3:00 p.m. in the Community Room at the Main Library, in collaboration with Neighbors for Peace.