Video: Dreams Are Restored as Starbucks Scholars Head Back to School

Classes are underway for Starbucks partners who are beginning or completing a bachelor’s degree through a unique opportunity created by the company and Arizona State University.

The Starbucks College Achievement Plan, which launched in June 2014, has enrolled more than 3,500 partners in the online program offered by Arizona State University. That number is expected to swell to 4,000 by the end of the year toward a target of graduating 25,000 partners by 2025.

The program allows all U.S. partners working an average 20 hours per week to earn a bachelor’s degree with full tuition reimbursement. Over 50 undergraduate degree programs are available and ASU places a heavy emphasis on providing coaching and counseling support to allow scholars to focus on their coursework.

Recently, more than 50 partners shared their experiences with the Starbucks College Achievement Plan. Here are stories - through partners' words and video - that capture the trials these ASU online enrollees have faced in their lives and the sense of triumph they feel as their dreams of continuing their educations have been revived.

Emily Pearn, Starbucks shift supervisor, Elmhurst, Illinois

Political science major

In January 2014, I left for service in the United States Coast Guard, which had been a lifelong dream. Shortly after leaving, I became very sick and ended up getting discharged. I came back to Chicago and got a job at Starbucks.

I quickly got promoted to shift supervisor. I loved going to work, loved sharing with everyone about the benefits I was receiving and loved serving coffee to my regulars. One morning I saw someone post on Facebook about the Starbucks College Achievement Plan. I couldn't believe this was applicable to me. I searched to find some reason why I wouldn't qualify, but I couldn't. I applied a couple of weeks later and was accepted into ASU in the political science program. I was able to finish my associate’s degree in December 2014 and start my bachelors with ASU in January 2015. I am set to graduate in May 2016.

Prior to the Starbucks College Achievement Plan, I had no way to pay for college. I didn't qualify for any financial aid due to my parents’ income. I had no plan on how to get a degree, but I knew somehow I would find a way to get into a career that would involve being of service to people. With my political science degree, I hope to either further my education as an emergency medical technician and go into firefighting or work for the Department of Homeland Security, as I was in the Coast Guard.

Marie Martini Schroeder, Starbucks store manager, Tualatin, Oregon

Graphic information technology major

Half of my life ago I met my husband and we bought a house as ambitious, starry-eyed teenagers. I went to Portland State University the fall following my high school graduation, but our mortgage held more weight than my tuition and I had to make the decision to postpone my education after my freshman year.

That’s when life happened. Like a cross between a stream of consciousness and an interstellar wormhole, I find myself fast-forwarded to middle-adulthood. My husband is a lieutenant for Portland Fire & Rescue, our son is a 13-year-old internet streamer, and our Cirque Du Soleil-esque daughter is now 9 and approaching double digits at lightning speed. We have a dog, a cat and a rabbit, because keeping the house clean wasn’t challenging enough.

I have been with Starbucks for nine years and a store manager for almost five years. When I heard about ASU, I was ecstatic. After 17 years of keeping college on the back burner, this was the opportunity of a lifetime. I started classes in the spring of 2015 and managed to make the dean’s list with a 4.10 while taking 16 credits.

I am so passionate about this opportunity that my district manager and I are coordinating a multi-session workshop for people to come learn about ASU and get in-person help and support to help them take the first steps. Through the Starbucks College Achievement Plan mentorship program, I am also a mentor to eight partners from around the U.S.

Starbucks college initiative is one of the most amazing things I have ever encountered and I am so honored and proud to be a part of it. I am proof that anyone with a family, at any age, can go back to school full-time, work full-time, and still do it all to the highest standard.

Robert Marshall, Starbucks store manager, Colorado Springs, Colorado

Psychology major

I started the ASU and Starbucks College Achievement Plan journey the night before it was announced to stores throughout the country. I think I saw the original hint on Instagram and immediately searched for more information. I saw the amazing opportunity that Starbucks was offering all of its partners and I decided that I could not miss such an opportunity, so I dove straight in.

Because I am further along in life, I had quite a few credits spread throughout six colleges and I was on a very short timeline to get all of those credits transferred. That was my only barrier.

I am about to start my fourth semester. My experience has been beyond extraordinary. I am thoroughly enjoying every course and instructor. Is it hard at times? Absolutely. Is it worth every moment? Most definitely.
This opportunity is something I could never have imagined for myself or my partners. My children, ages 9 to 13, are watching their father get an opportunity he hopes they will also enjoy when they are of college age. While Starbucks has always earned my respect and loyalty, they have my heart long after graduating with my degree, because I am interested in graduate school and doctorate school and finding an opportunity to use my education to make both Starbucks and the world a better place.

New Opportunities through Starbucks College Achievement Plan

Video: Joel, Kimmie and Susana share their stories

thumbnail for Starbucks new lavender drinks offer a taste of spring for everyone

Starbucks new lavender drinks offer a taste of spring for everyone