The Cultural Academy for Excellence (“CAFE”), established in 1996, award-winning, music-based academic and life-skills enrichment program.
CAFE started in 1996 as an enticement for youth to stay in school, stay out of trouble and perform well academically. Research revealed the history of Caribbean cultures successfully implementing early intervention for at-risk teens by blending the therapeutic aspect of percussion and the aesthetic lure of the melodic SteelPan. CAFE’s founder and staff applied this proven theory of intervention to the program design.
Over the years, CAFE has provided more than 500 youths and 100 adults with culturally-based enrichment activities facilitated by professional musicians and teachers. On Saturdays, CAFE offers Academic Tutoring and Music classes, using the SteelPan (of ‘pan’) as the primary instrument, as well as Visual Arts and Chess. The curriculum incorporates the Maryland State Department of Education’s standards for music instruction as set forth in Essential Learner Outcomes for Fine Arts. It offers pan lessons during weeknights to adults and youth and also holds a three-week Summer Music Camp. In addition to Academic and Music classes, CAFE sponsors one of the only “After-school” Mock Trial teams in Prince Georges County and offer opportunities for debate competitions, and MathCounts competitions.
CAFE serves predominantly African American students representing a wide range of socio-economic backgrounds, ages 7 to 18, from as far away as Baltimore County and Northern Virginia. Through CAFE’s activities these youth realize their creative potential and expand their success into social achievement. Program components include:
- Professionally conducted music instruction: Students learn and play classical, jazz, calypso, Latin, gospel, Rhythm & Blues, and Pop/Hip Hop music on the only non-electric instrument invented in the 20th century. Music theory lessons take them from beginner to university level. Staff prepares them for major music skills examinations given annually. Advanced students may join the award-winning Positive Vibrations Youth Steel Orchestra, which gives over 20 performances annually and whose achievements include receiving 21 scholarships from US Department of State to tour, perform and teach in Senegal (2002), performing at private reception hosted by Oprah Winfrey (2005), opening the National Children, Youth and Families Conference hosted by Mrs. Alma (Colin) Powell (2005), opening the National Forum on Community, Faith and Democracy (keynote speaker, Valerie Jarrett, Senior Advisor to the President-Elect) (2008) and winning regional and national steelpan orchestra competitions (Grand Prize, 2007).
- Tutoring in language arts, reading, math and science: Staff helps students develop skills for careers in music, science and technology, and provide college scholarships to our graduating high schools seniors.
- Leadership development and life skills training
- Instruction in Chess, mime and visual arts
- Opportunities for performing and national and international travel
- Opportunities for community service (Each year CAFE students develop a community service project, such as raising funds for homeless youth or performing at senior centers).
CAFE has received honors for its program, including Outstanding Service and Commitment to Youth (2008), Outstanding After-School Programming Award (2008 & 2006), and Outstanding Delivery of Service Award and Community Collaboration Award (2007). It was selected as one of the best small charities in the Greater Washington (DC) region by the Catalog for Philanthropy (2007 – 2008) and was selected by the Harmon Family Foundation to present a concert in honor of Martin Luther King’s Birthday at its Shakespeare Theatre (DC, 2009).