Today, local entrepreneur Sonya Brown opened NOLA Vegan Cafe in New Orleans where she serves vegan food and helps teens who are aging out of the foster system to transition into working adults. Brown was in the foster system across Louisiana from ages six to 18 and founded Project 18, an organization that helps similarly positioned young people find housing and employment opportunities. “I aged out of foster care, so it’s my whole life—knowing that experience of aging out and waiting to be a mentor and help empower these kids to live productive lives,” Brown told The Gambit. At NOLA Vegan Cafe, Brown serves vegan versions of New Orleans cuisine such as po’ boy sandwiches made with oyster mushrooms, macaroni and cheese featuring hearts of palm instead of crab, and gumbo. “A lot of the kids that come from [foster] care don’t have jobs, so they’ll come here, and they would always ask me for money,” Brown said. “Now when they come here, I’m like, ‘You can work a few days, a few hours, if you just need cash.’ That’s the goal, hiring foster kids and having them work in the café.” 

Photo Credit: Nola Vegan Cafe/Facebook