• Harvard students launching cafe to help homeless teens discover their potential

    Updated:

    CAMBRIDGE, Mass. - Can a cup of coffee and a donut change a life? Two rising sophomores at Harvard University think it can. 

    Tony Shu and Connor Schoen are getting ready to open Breaktime, a coffee shop with a mission.  

    "Breaktime is a social enterprise that creates cafes to provide stable employment, vocational training and career advising to young adults experiencing homelessness," Schoen said.

    The two are currently converting an 800 square foot site at 1000 Massachusetts Ave. in Cambridge into a coffee shop that will employ homeless teens.

    A volunteer experience at a homeless shelter sparked the idea for Breaktime. They heard many stories from clients about how hard it was to gain employment because of the stigma of homelessness.

    "We hope to show other employers that this is a population that has a lot of talent and a lot of potential. They just need some support," said Shu.

    Getting that first job opportunity can be life-changing according to Katherine James of Bridge Over Troubled Waters, an organization that helps homeless youth. She said developing some consistency on the job for a homeless youth can show future employers a person is reliable and has developed marketable skills.

    Breaktime will be a streamlined operation, reselling baked goods to reduce fixed costs and licensing requirements. "Our biggest goal is to create a template model that can be used in other cities, other places," said Schoen.

    The date for opening Breaktime is late October or early November and the students are still raising funds.

    Next Up: