Leadership Ideas, Information and News

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

FBI New Orleans Announces the 2010 Director's Community Leadership Award Recipient

David W. Welker, Special Agent in Charge of the New Orleans Division of the FBI, announced that Sister Mary Lou Specha is the recipient of the New Orleans 2010 FBI Director's Community Leadership Award (DCLA). Sister Mary Lou Specha, PBVM, Executive Director of Café Reconcile, is being recognized for her outstanding efforts to reform at-risk youths in the New Orleans central city area.

Café Reconcile is a nonprofit organization committed to interrupting the cycle of generational poverty, violence, and neglect in the New Orleans area. Their dedicated staff provides innovative life skills and job training program which assists young people from severely at-risk communities who desire to make a positive change in their lives. Reconcile’s students arrive facing a vast array of challenges, from extreme poverty and educational challenges to homelessness, violence, and participation in the juvenile justice system. Nonetheless, these young people possess a deep desire to break the cycle and become productive, contributing members of society. To date, Café Reconcile has successfully graduated more than 500 youths. These students leave the nine-week program with basic life skills, interpersonal skills, and work skills, enabling and empowering them to successfully enter the workforce.

In September 2000, Café Reconcile opened its doors in the severely distressed Central City neighborhood of New Orleans in an effort to establish a safe and supportive place where at-risk youth would have an opportunity to learn the skills necessary to become productive individuals. The visionaries wanted to establish a program that would give young people between the ages of 16 and 22 the skills and self-discipline necessary for employment. The training these young people receive in culinary arts is always in demand in New Orleans, where tourism is a main source of income.

Seventy percent of the students who enter the Café Reconcile program graduate. Following graduation, Café Reconcile follows each student’s progress for four months and has found that 60 percent work the entire time once they leave. This is a remarkable success rate considering that before coming to Cafe Reconcile, these youths were virtually unemployable.

For her outstanding accomplishments to reform at-risk youth in New Orleans, Sister Mary Lou Specha, executive director of Cafe Reconcile, was presented the New Orleans Division's 2010 Director's Community Leadership Award today by SAC Welker at the New Orleans Division of the FBI. On March 25, 2011 she and the other division recipients will travel to FBI Headquarters to receive their formal awards from FBI Director Robert Mueller. Since 1990, the FBI has publicly recognized individuals and organizations, who have exhibited exemplary leadership within the local community and whose leadership has assisted the FBI and local law enforcement personnel in making safer communities, with the distinction of the FBI Director’s Community Leadership Award.

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