Best of America

Inspiring Children at the Urban Studio Café

Inspiring Children at the Urban Studio Café© 2011 Tamara Reynolds

Our hero: Claire Wolff, 25

Where she lives: St. Louis, Missouri

Who she helps: Urban Studio Café

At 21, Claire Wolff was teaching high school students photography in a diverse neighborhood of St. Louis. She adored the kids, but she was disturbed by the lack of reliable job opportunities for them after they graduated. With financial backing from Washington University in St. Louis and Kaldi’s, a local coffee company, she bought a spot in a ground floor art studio and, in 2009, opened a coffee and sandwich shop, thinking this was one way she might help the neighborhood. The Urban Studio Café now employs five neighborhood kids and hosts classes and workshops on printmaking, nutrition, and financial literacy. “It’s been a good way to address the issues these kids are facing,” says Wolff, who recently earned a master’s in social work. “They get work skills, express their creativity, and build relationships with their neighbors.”

Wolff spends much of her time writing grants to keep the café afloat, but she also makes a mean latte and loves chatting it up with the customers. “They take out the trash, bring flowers from their gardens, and throw their parties here,” she says. “It’s a pretty magical thing.”

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