Opportunity Youth Find a Career Path at Starbucks

Ethan, Prisma and Fabiana walked away from the Opportunity Youth Fair and Forum in Phoenix last fall with job offers from Starbucks. After a year on the job, the three young adults say they’ve received something even more vital and far-reaching: opportunities.

More than 500 attendees of the Phoenix event were extended immediate job offers by 25 participating companies, including Starbucks, which has also hired new partners (employees) at job fairs conducted by the 100,000 Opportunities Initiative in Chicago, Los Angeles and Seattle.

Starbucks is a key driver of the 100,000 Opportunities Initiative, the country’s largest employer-led coalition committed to creating pathways to meaningful employment for young people. The coalition hit its goal of hiring 100,000 opportunity youth – the population of 16- to 24-year-olds who are out of work and not in school – in August, two years ahead of schedule, and is now aiming for 1 million opportunities by 2021.

A Foundation for the Future

For Ethan Fierro, who celebrates one year with Starbucks just prior to Thanksgiving, said the opportunity he’s received has provided an unexpected career path. A native of Riverside, California, the 22-year-old struck up a conversation with a Starbucks barista when he arrived at the job fair. 

“He taught me how to make a Flat White,” Fierro said. “He was a cool cat and we talked a bit. I asked him if he had any pointers for me when interviewing. He told me they were doing interviews right there and encouraged me to do one right away. I was just myself and everything worked out.”

Mason Messer, the manager of a Starbucks in Mesa, Arizona, noticed that Fierro clicked with the job almost immediately. When someone couldn’t make their shift he was quick to become a fill-in and when a barista was having a tough time getting the hang of the job, Fierro volunteered to take him under his wing.

“He showed me he wanted to be challenged and to keep moving up,” Messer said.

A relative newcomer to coffee when he was hired, Fierro studied and became a Certified Starbucks Coffee Master. These days, Fierro roasts his own coffee at home. After four months on the job, he was promoted to shift supervisor.  He plans to return to community college to receive his associate degree and then take advantage of the Starbucks College Achievement Plan to earn a bachelor’s degree at Arizona State University.

“My whole experience has been pretty amazing,” Fierro said. “I want to work in this industry the rest of my life, whether that be with Starbucks or opening my own coffeehouse. I’m thankful to Starbucks. It’s put me on a good path and helped me build a foundation for where I want to go in the future.”

Above and Beyond

Prisma Paredes’s leadership qualities were apparent soon after her arrival at Starbucks. The 20-year-old Phoenix native had worked in fast food and childcare before learning about the Opportunity Youth Fair and Forum through her church. She was working as a barista eight days after the job fair, reporting to work at 7th Avenue and Camelback Road in Phoenix, one of four Starbucks locations in the U.S. with an in-store training center designed to support job training and social change in diverse low- to medium-income communities.

As she approaches her one-year anniversary with Starbucks, Parades is concentrating on becoming a shift supervisor – a promotion her manager, Martin Amador, said she’s earned.

“I’m looking for someone who gets involved, is knowledgeable, connects with customers and understands the operation of the store,” said Amador. “Someone who goes above and beyond what their daily duties are. Prisma exemplifies that.”

A Quiet Leader

Fabiana Calderon struck Jen Ramsey as very shy when she first began working at the Starbucks Ramsey manages in Goodyear, Arizona. Calderon, however, proved to be a quick study with a comforting presence. She stepped up during the holiday rush to calm the nerves of another barista and asks insightful questions to better understand the operation.

A native of Costa Rica, Calderon moved to America with her mother when she was 5, teaching herself English by watching “Dora the Explorer” cartoons. Attracted by the welcoming environment, she identified Starbucks as a place where she wanted to work while in high school, and was 19 when she left the Opportunity Youth Fair and Forum with a job offer from the company in hand.

A barista trainer on track to become a shift supervisor, Calderon is enrolled at Arizona State University through the College Achievement Plan. The 20-year-old partner is pleased that the company she held in high regard as a teenager has been everything she’d hoped it’d be.

“When I came to Starbucks, the family feel to it became real,” she said. “Everyone made me feel part of the team. It’s nice to know that that family feel in our store is real.”

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5 things to know about first-ever Starbucks Promises Day