Top row (L-R): Cherie LaCour-Duckworth, Judy Reese Morse, Jerome Williams, Dishon Williams, Braxton Bickham, Christina Kosinski, Jerry Marshall, Raymond Carter, Jr., Roosevelt Gilbert, Antonio James, Karen Burks, Herman Guillory, and Ronnie King, Jr.   Bottom row (L-R): Kelsey Webster, Jayla Neco, Melody Davis, Monica Chambliss-LaMotte, Mya Dyson, Xavier Lawrence, Destiny Martin, and Jasmine Gray.

NEW ORLEANS – On Friday, April 5, 2019, 16 graduates that made up Cohort VII in the Urban League’s STRIVE CORE Training program and the Career and Workforce Fundamentals Boot camps were awarded certificates of achievement for completing the rigorous professional development courses. Nine of those graduates also earned a job at the brand new location of PJ’s Coffee in New Orleans East, which will officially open its doors in the coming weeks. This recent workforce development success is the result of a partnership between the Urban League of Louisiana and Crescent City Coffee, LLC.

In late 2018, Stephanie Chambliss and Elwood McCoy of Crescent City Coffee, LLC, co-owners of PJ’s Coffee New Orleans East, were struggling to find qualified job applicants for their new location on Read Boulevard. Chambliss reached out to the Urban League of Louisiana’s Office of Workforce Development for assistance to recruit and train potential workers.

With the New Orleans East community in mind, Crescent City Coffee, LLC and the Urban League began recruiting career seekers within the community. Chambliss and McCoy wanted to ensure that everyone from high school seniors to older adults would have an opportunity to compete for jobs at their new location and recruited 10 eager participants to make up the Urban League of Louisiana STRIVE CORE Training Cohort VII and six excited to participate in the Career and Workforce Fundamentals Boot camps.

“This cohort was different from previous classes in that it was strategically targeted at residents in the New Orleans East community and there was an opportunity for immediate employment upon completion of the training,” said Cherie LaCour-Duckworth, Urban League of Louisiana’s Vice President of Workforce Development. “It made sense for us to hold recruitment, informational sessions, and professional development training in the community where the business planned to open its doors. New Orleans East residents will have an opportunity to compete for jobs close to where they live and will begin to see a shift in economic development in the area. Our goal was to provide PJ’s with well-trained, prepared workers and Friday’s graduation definitely reflects that. Every person hired by PJ’s calls New Orleans East home. This is yet another exciting economic development win in New Orleans East”

“Partnering with the Urban League of Louisiana allowed me to observe prospective employees and to evaluate their strengths and weaknesses. Upon completion of the program, I knew exactly who I wanted to hire and I knew what capacity I wanted them to serve in,” said Stephanie Chambliss, co-owner of Crescent City Coffee, LLC.

In partnership with the New Orleans Business Alliance and STRIVE International, the Urban League of Louisiana’s Office of Workforce Development is one of five Opportunity Centers in New Orleans using the STRIVE CORE Training curriculum. The goal of this professional development program is to prepare job seekers for success in today’s workforce and provide them with the tools needed to not only sustain employment, but also move up within their chosen profession. The 160-hour program is taught in a work-simulated style and requires commitment, participation, and engagement of program participants for four weeks.

The graduation for Cohort VII took place at the New Orleans East Hospital Community Room. Cyndi Nguyen, Councilwoman for New Orleans City Council District E served as a guest speaker and the Honorable Chelsey Richard Napoleon, Clerk of Civil District Court, delivered the keynote address. In addition to the nine graduates hired by PJ’s Coffee, one graduate was hired by Legacy Kitchen and the remaining six career seekers are interviewing with various employers across the city.  Going forward, the Urban League’s Office of Workforce Development plans to work with Councilwoman Cindy Nguyen and other businesses in the area to help them connect to the right talent through use of STRIVE Core Training.

“A primary focus for the Urban League of Louisiana is establishing and expanding innovative strategic partnerships that yield greater impact,” said Judy Reese Morse, Urban League of Louisiana President and CEO. ” The collaboration with PJ’s Coffee in New Orleans East is just one example of the Urban League of Louisiana living its mission, to promote and facilitate economic self reliance for residents of New Orleans and across the state,” she said.

To learn more about the Strive Core Training Program, visit