One of newest fine-dining establishments in Downtown Pittsburgh, Café Momentum is more than a restaurant: Most of the 25 teenagers it employs have been involved in the juvenile justice system. Café Momentum provides them with yearlong, paid internships in an effort to set them on a new path and stop the cycle of incarceration.

For 17-year-old Marissa, that process began when she started to feel more comfortable with herself. She joined Café Momentum last fall, when the program still operated out of the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh’s Downtown branch. She has worked at the restaurant since it opened in March, just outside Market Square where Wolfie’s Pub was previously located.

Café Momentum Pittsburgh displays its mission on a wall in the restaurant
Café Momentum provides support such as jobs, case management, and mental health services in an effort to reduce recidivism among teens.

“My biggest lesson from here was just my confidence,” Marissa said. “I used to be scared to talk to [strangers].”

But at Café Momentum, “I talk to everybody that comes in here.”

Read more: