A local organization called Empowered Youth is revealing cooking as a tool that at-risk young men can use as a way to earn money. The Empowered Youth Culinary program has brought several individuals in and launched them to new horizons in the food industry.
Now, a culmination of all of the work is coming to reality as the organization is opening the Empowered Youth Hub, an outdoor community space with a food truck operated by students of the program. Empowered Youth is hosting a grand opening for the space to show the community how talented their students are and how guidance can drastically change one’s trajectory.
“When you’ve grown up with less guidance, fewer parameters and less information on how to conduct yourself in the real world, you are going to make mistake,” said Colleen Adams, executive director of Empowered Youth. “The whole premise of our program is to help our students to recover from mistakes.”
The Empowered Youth Hub grand opening is happening Thursday, Feb. 20 at 20 NE 29th St., in Wynwood. The event runs from 6-9 p.m. and admission is free. The Empowered Youth Hub is a 7,000-square-foot outdoor facility with a tented dining area and a large stage for entertainment. The hub also possesses a farm-to-table educational garden. The goal is to use the space as a new facility to train students in the culinary program. As they progress, they will also be paid for the work that they do. When the hub isn't occupied by students it can be rented out for private and community events. The funds earned from rentals will go back into the program.
The food truck within the hub, Vibe 305, is student-operated with a menu containing items such as wings and fries, pulled pork sandwich and quesadillas. The best-selling item on the menu is the Cuban egg roll.
“We made a mixture of pulled pork and a Cuban sandwich, in an egg roll. We came up with it as an experiment to try out,” said Will Robles, Empower Youth student, and project manager of Vibe 305. “It is one of the best-selling items. It contains pulled pork, ham, bell peppers, pickles and mozzarella cheese,” said Robles.
Robles is 25 and has three kids. He served time in prison. With the knowledge he gained from Empowered Youth Hub, he is ensuring he isn't going back and he's here to provide for his family.
“I can’t mentor somebody and say stay out the streets if I am still in the streets,” said Robles.”When I came home from jail I said I am going to leave the streets alone.”
According to Adams, it took about four years to complete the hub. The Empowered Youth is a nonprofit organization and the hub is a social entrepreneur project. This means the endeavor was so unique that Miami-Dade County did not have a classification to put the hub under for zoning and permits. The ball was able to move forward when District 1 Commissioner Audrey M. Edmonson got involved.
“I’m happy to see that the hub is finally opening up and I wish much success to the program and the students in it,” Edmonson said Tuesday.
The process was extensive but Adams wanted to deliver on her promise to the students of the program.
“There were so many times when this seemed impossible to get this done. The thing I kept saying to myself is, ‘I made them a promise.’ Everyone makes them a promise and never delivers. I wasn't going to do that,” said Adams.
Guests of the grand opening will be able to enjoy samples of the food from Vibe 305. Musical entertainment will also be provided by the alumni band Guitars Over Guns and local musical artist, Brent Love.
Adams, Robles and the rest of the team behind Empower Youth hub are set to give an evening of food, music and fun courtesy of the students of the program. Rsvp for the grand opening by Feb. 14 at firstname.lastname@example.org.