By Madison Sawyer

DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – Dallas has no shortage of great restaurants, but one restaurant is doing far more than just serving up excellent meals.

From the both the inside and outside, Cafe Momentum looks like your typical restaurant.

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“We are consistently ranked among one of the top restaurants in Dallas since we opened our doors almost six years ago,” Chad Houser says.

Houser is the Founder and CEO of Cafe Momentum, a non-profit restaurant that is changing lives, giving opportunity, and serving up hope to young adults who are looking for a second chance.

“We are a paid post-release internship for young men and young ladies exiting the Dallas County juvenile justice facilities,” Houser says.

The restaurant not only provides young adults like Jamarree Dixon and Keanna Adams the chance to have a fresh start, but the opportunity to learn new skills.

“Not only just learning how to cook and clean, but how to manage a business and how to work as a team,” Dixon says. “We’ve learned about motivation and dedication.”

“It gives me experience,” Adams says. “Like when I leave here, I’ll be able to get a good job. I don’t have to settle for less.”

They say their internships at Cafe Momentum have opened their eyes to all new possibilities they never thought possible before.

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“After this, I want to be able to open up my own business,” Dixon explains. “I want to go to trade school for HVAC or plumbing and then start my own company. Like I said (this internship) has definitely given me that push and that motivation I needed.”

The internship not only includes a job, but access to a built-in support system of case managers, psychologists, education coordinators and program directors who are all advocating and encouraging the interns every step of the way.

“So that we are holistically addressing issues and barriers that have previously pushed them to a path of detention,” Houser says.

“We aren’t just building a program. We are building a new approach, a new model that says instead of taking a young man or young lady and putting them in handcuffs and isolating them in jail — that instead we are embracing them and wrapping an ecosystem of support around them so that we can help them to go on and achieve their full potential in life.”

The recidivism rate in the State of Texas is 50%, but at Cafe Momentum it is only 15%.

That’s why the Stand Together Foundation, a non-profit focused on breaking the cycle of poverty, has invested nearly $2 million to support the launch of the Momentum Advisory Council which will support taking Cafe Momentum’s non-profit restaurant model nationwide.

“This restaurant proves to the community and it proves to the young men and women here that they can and will rise to whatever level of expectation is set for them, as long as we are giving them the tools and resources and opportunity to do so,” Houser says. “When someone walks in here, you aren’t just having a wonderful meal. You are buying into your community and the betterment of your community.”

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Madison Sawyer