Coffee shop owner provides guidance to young adults aging out of foster system

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- A Philadelphia woman who runs a coffee shop is giving eight young people an extraordinary degree of support and guidance.

Anne Harrison is the executive director at The Monkey and the Elephant, a small cafe in the city's Brewerytown section. But it's not just any coffee shop. It's part of a nonprofit organization that caters to young adults who are aging out of the foster care system. Those individuals are who make up the staff.

"What we do is provide a stabilizing piece in young adults coming to adulthood," she explained. "So that they can think about what they wanna do next."

Each year, the cafe employs up to eight young adults to run the shop. They make all the menu items by hand, and it gives them a chance to make money with security without the worry of layoffs.

"Every job is a secure job. We will fundraise and we will look for grants and opportunities so that no one has to lose their job during this time," she said.

Additionally, employees take part in paid professional development programs provided by the organization that teaches them a little something about everything, including financial budgeting, time management, emotional well-being and networking.

Kvon Harris-Robinson is one of them, and he's done so well that he was recently promoted to cafe manager.

"I feel like M&E gives people sense of well-being, gives them a support system that they naturally wouldn't have aging out," he said. "A lot of people who age out of the foster care system don't have a good support system, so it definitely became a second home for me. They have so many resources and help you with networking and help with a lot of skills that I use today."

"There's a light at the end of the tunnel, there's so much more for you after you age out of the system," added Robinson.

For the Monkey and the Elephant, it's about growth, one barista at a time.

"I hope that it's a place that people can find their first greatest work experience, that this sets the foundation for the rest of their life ," Harrison said.
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