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A coffee shop inside the Riviera Beach Public Library teaches business, life skills to students

Riviera Beach Cafe.jpg
Wilkine Brutus
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Zykeria Lord (right) and Kevon Rhooms (left) behind the counter get the cafe ready to start the day.

Zykeria Lord said she has "learned how to remain calm no matter how chaotic it is."

An incubator program for entrepreneurship and leadership skills exists against the backdrop of gourmet coffee and pastries at the Riviera Beach Café.

The Riviera Beach Public Library and the city’s Youth Empowerment Center launched the coffee shop to teach current and former students about economic empowerment.

So far, it’s working.

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Zykeria Lord, 19, who recently graduated from Inlet Grove High School, plans to major in business at Florida A&M University in the fall.

Lord wants to enter the nail industry and produce better clothing options for plus-size women. She said she wants to be financially savvy so she can run multiple businesses. And in just a few days after the cafe's opening, business lessons have empowered her to take chances in the future.

“Don’t be afraid to do anything different. And when someone wants to put you out there, you accept it. Because if you don’t, you never know what it feels like to know that experience, said Lord. “I hope to gain every work experience possible, from hiring, to entrepreneurship. I want to know everything.”

The Riviera Beach Café, tucked near the entrance of the library, shares building space with the city’s Youth Empowerment Center.

Zykeria Lord at Riviera Beach Cafe.jpg
Wilkine Brutus
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Zykeria Lord says she wants to become a multiple business owner | Riviera Beach Cafe at the Rivera Beach Library

Other students at the cafe include Kevon Rhooms, who recently received his GED and plans to attend specialized training for a commercial driver's license, commonly known as CDL.

The cafe “gives our kids a hands-on knowledge of what it is to run a business day-to-day,” said Valerie Grimsley, Director of the Emerging Community Center and Youth Empowerment programs at the library. “How to do schedules and, how do we run a business? How do we order the products? How do we balance the books?”

Grimsley has been working with youth in the city for more than 17 years. She said the cafe employs four people who make $15 an hour through the city’s financial system. And they’ll receive a barista certification.

The city unveiled the newly renovated library last summer. Venture past the coffee shop and peruse through thought-provoking book selections, a computer lab, virtual reality room, and a hydroponics lab.

The coffee shop idea came about during the renovation process, when Grimsley surveyed teenagers in the youth program about money, jobs, and financial management. She said students expressed an overwhelming amount of interest in understanding economic mobility.

According to the U.S Census, the city's poverty rate sits at 21.9%, which far exceeds Palm Beach County's poverty level of 12%.

The renovation of the library is part of the city's “Reimagine Riviera Beach” campaign, spending hundreds of millions of dollars to upgrade municipal facilities.

Grimsley said city officials are also in talks with Career Source of Palm Beach County to launch a business internship, “which is going to teach our kids soft skills, some ethics and some things that our workforce is actually looking for so that our kids can be successful.”

“[The coffee shop] teaches our kids leadership capabilities that they can use anywhere and not just in the work world, but even in their personal lives.”