Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance announced a grant aimed at tearing down barriers for at-risk youth and people formerly incarcerated.
At the Sweet Generation Bakery in the East Village, Lisbeth De Leon-Pichard not only serves up sweet treats. She’s also learns culinary arts and business skills through a unique internship program.
“It helped me develop skills that I didn’t even know I had myself,” said De Leon-Pichard.
The bakery was one of three organizations that were picked to share 7.1 million dollars to create career training and jobs for at-risk youth and former inmates. The grant was provided by the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office, with money from settlements with international banks that violated U.S. sanctions.
“Some might ask why a prosecutor’s office like ours would invest in social enterprises and the answer is really very simple poverty and unemployment are criminal justice issues,” said Cy Vance, (D) Manhattan District Attorney.
The organization Drive Change will use its share of the funding to provide jobs and employment training on food trucks.
“Our experience is that young people coming home from the system are often the most eager to learn are often individuals with an incredible devotion to the community that’s being built within that workplace,” said Jordyn Lexton, Founder and CEO of Drive Change.
The funding will also support the Hope Program which focuses on providing training and work opportunities in the green jobs sector.
“There’s so much evidence that says that having career training and opportunity and access to those jobs can help people out of the system,“ said Revina Moore, a representative of The Hope Program.
The grants mark the first social enterprise funding by a law enforcement agency in the United States.
Because of the grant each of the three recipients plan to expand their operations.
“Our next step is to build out our commissary kitchen which will run 24 hours a day seven days a week where we’ll house our headquarters our counseling space our teaching kitchen,” said Amy Chasan, Executive Director of the Sweet Generation Bakery
Those expansions can provide even more opportunities in the future.