Prodigy Fortifies Community with Coffee
COFFEEHOUSE HIRES LOWER-INCOME YOUTH
A coffee shop is not the first platform that comes to mind when thinking about bringing together a community or improving a broken education system, but with those very things in mind, Prodigy Coffeehouse is taking Denver by surprise.
Prodigy—so named because of the professional development it offers its employees—is the brainchild of Stephanie Frances, a woman who sought to combat socioeconomic inequalities in her local community. She claims the wealth disparity bred by an ill-funded Denver Public School system creates an “us versus them” mentality in lower-income youth, which in turn constructs a mental barrier as to what they believe they’re capable of later in life. In response, she launched Prodigy Coffeehouse on July 30.
With a handful of espresso beans, Frances aims to make “apprentices” out of disadvantaged employees. She hopes time spent at Prodigy will enable staff members to leave with a wide network of professional contacts, an innovative mindset developed by being allowed an active role in day-to-day operations, and even improved mental health. In the meantime, they’ve been trained to make an excellent cup of coffee.
Frances’ mission is even more ambitious than giving this unparalleled opportunity to disconnected, low income, or homeless young adults alone: she believes that if her business thrives, other businesses will be encouraged to open in the area as well, boosting the local economy. Additionally, Frances figured that Prodigy could act as a model working environment and prepare her staff for successful future careers. “[Frances] just had a vision,” Sha’ron Wilson, a Prodigy employee, said. “And she made it a reality.”
As a woman experienced with managing nonprofits, Frances started simple: fundraising. This step brought necessary resources into the picture, and once word got around about the coffee shop’s mission, Frances no longer had to ask for contributions, as local businesses began willingly pitching in to help make the shop a reality. The community caught a glimpse of Frances’ vision and rallied to help in anyway they could.
Soon, donated tables and chairs populated the front patio. After that, there were volunteers painting the inside and outside of the shop. Finally, Frances had a brand new, top-of-theline espresso machine on her bar, donated from the supportive Allegro Coffee. Because of the community’s enthusiastic support, her dreams for Prodigy began taking shape.
Once armed with the proper equipment, Prodigy Coffeehouse took to inspiring the neighborhood’s youth. Its employees, all living within blocks of the coffee shop, were recruited months before the actual opening date to receive a thorough training. At the comprehensive training, employees were taught all about coffee: its history, its role in Denver, as well as the correct proportions necessary to craft the perfect drink.
Facts about the art of coffee were not the only knowledge the employees left the training with; they also got to develop valuable teamwork and communication skills. Proficiency in these areas are what Frances hopes will allow for more success in the community’s youth. The young Prodigy employees will leave the shop fully prepared for the workforce, an aspect often overlooked at school.
Frances had ambitious vision for the run-down auto shop, and since its grand opening on July 30, Prodigy Coffeehouse has created a legacy for itself. Through some hard work and amazing contributions, Frances’s dream became a reality, and a greater sense of community has been established in the neighborhood as well as in the store itself.
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