Balancing Life as a College Student, Mom and Starbucks Partner

More than 60 percent of the 3,500 Starbucks students enrolled in Starbucks College Achievement Plan are women, and 250 of those students are also working moms. Starbucks partners discuss the challenge of successfully balancing the demands of motherhood and work, while pursuing their educational goals at Arizona State University.

‘The more education you have, the further you can go in life’

What started as a summer job at Starbucks turned into a 20-year career for Akeisha Walker.

“After I came home for Christmas break during my sophomore year in college, I decided I wouldn’t return to school,” said Walker. “I wasn’t having a good experience and I didn’t know what I wanted to pursue for a career.”

Walker resumed her position as a Starbucks barista, got married and started a family. The thought of going to school resurfaced for Walker and from time to time, she took courses at a local junior college.

“Finishing my degree was something I wanted to do, but it wasn’t a priority on my list,” said Walker. “I knew that I couldn’t take out loans to pay for school, when I had three kids who would need to go to college in the future.”

Starbucks College Achievement Plan changed Walker’s opinion about going back to school.“My first thought was that I no longer had an excuse,” she said. “I knew I had to finish my degree.”

Now a district manager overseeing 11 Starbucks stores, Walker has a very rigid schedule with little or no social life outside of her family. She completes most of her homework at a local pool, while waiting for her daughter to finish her 3-hour swim practice three days per week. “My laptop goes everywhere with me,” Walker said. “As long as I have an internet connection, I’m studying. I wouldn’t have time to go to campus for classes. School needed to be on my own terms.”

Walker’s three girls – and a fourth child due in November of this year – are her motivation to complete a degree in Organizational Leadership by 2017.

“I believe the more education you have, the further you can go in life,” said Walker. “My girls see me going to school and know how important education is to me. I want to demonstrate to them that I was able to complete my degree and that someday they will as well.”

‘I was so excited that Starbucks would actually pay for my education’

Amanda Thompson started as a Starbucks barista in 2001 and worked her way up to store manager. Five years after landing this position, she decided to continue her education.

“I had applied and even registered,” said Thompson. “But I was faced with the reality that I just didn’t have the money to go back to school.”

She didn’t want to take out more loans and incur debt on top of her existing school debt from 2004 when she attended a local junior college. She was young and recently married and had just bought her first home. School would cost money and limit her ability to work and pay her bills. Thompson put the thought of going back to school out of her mind and continued with her life.

“I gave birth to my daughter in December of 2012,” said Thompson. “I focused on being a mom, which was such a blessing, but a lot of hard work.”

During the summer of 2014, Amanda learned about the Starbucks College Achievement Plan and decided right away that she would apply. “I was so excited that Starbucks would actually pay for my education and I could finally get my degree,” she said.

Thompson takes two classes per seven-week session, while working 40 hours a week at Starbucks. She reads during her lunch break at work and continues after picking up her daughter from daycare.

“I’m lucky that my husband is very supportive. He takes care of our daughter when I need to do schoolwork,” she said. “One of the biggest adjustments I made was to cut out television and social media browsing. It was worth it though because it allows for more time with my family.”

Thompson will graduate next summer. She plans to continue working at Starbucks and start her own social media company.

'There was no reason in the world that I could say no to this'

Meghan Gorgonne Robinson was a veterinary technician in an animal hospital, when she took a part-time job at Starbucks, so she could go back to school.

“I began pursuing a degree in psychology,” said Robinson. “I have a huge passion for helping people.”

At the start of her junior year, Robinson quit school to become a full-time wife and mother.

“Making the decision to quit school to be a mom was huge,” she said. “Through it all, I continued to work for Starbucks part-time.”

A divorce a few years ago forced Robinson to rebuild her life. “After the divorce, I thought I would never be able to return to school,” said Robinson. “I didn’t know how I could support myself and my kids, let alone go back to school.”

Robinson took a second job as an executive assistant to make ends meet. Her hope of going back to school remained. She researched schools including ASU, but couldn’t commit to more than what she was already juggling.

Then while watching the news one afternoon, Robinson learned about the Starbucks education benefit.

“Taking advantage of the plan was a no brainer,” she said. “There was no reason in the world that I could say no to this. The Starbucks College Achievement Plan was my opportunity to finish my degree. I knew that I couldn’t keep letting the years go by.”

Today, Robinson is once again pursuing her degree in psychology and maintains a 4.17 GPA. She will graduate from ASU in the summer of 2016. Knowing both the value of an education and the ASU program, she often encourages other partners to consider the Starbucks College Achievement Plan.

“Everything is clicking into place,” said Robinson. “I’m going after my education and looking for every avenue to continue my career with Starbucks.”

Revisting Educational Goals through Starbucks College Achievement Plan

Video: Susana's story

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2024 Starbucks summer highlights