Starbucks-ASU Scholars ‘Enter a World of Great Achievement’

“I wanted to get my bachelor’s degree before I turned 21 and I did everything possible to make that happen,” said Reanna Rogers, a Starbucks assistant store manager in Washington state. “Now here we are and this is just the beginning of what I’ll achieve.”

Rogers is one of 209 partners (employees) getting a degree from Arizona State University (ASU) in today’s Commencement through the Starbucks College Achievement Plan. Introduced two years ago, the innovative program provides partners an opportunity for full tuition reimbursement for an undergraduate degree from ASU. More than 6,500 partners are participating in ASU’s online degree programs, with over 400 graduates to date.

More than 70 Starbucks College Achievement Plan grads walked in today’s ceremony on the ASU campus and received encouragement from the president of ASU, Michael M. Crow, Ph.D.

“Today is the best day in the history of our country and the best day in the history of our species – the things we’ve been able to do, the things we have achieved, the mountains we have climbed, the trajectory we have been able to place ourselves on, the limitless ideas that we’re now able to advance. We’ve never been at a moment in history closer to the point where equality and liberty and justice are now much more than theoretical concepts. They’re things we’re actually pursuing with a positive vengeance,” said Dr. Crow. “You are entering into a world of great achievement, while at the same time a world of many challenges.”

‘Nothing is impossible’

Betty Rogers has always been optimistic about her daughter Reanna’s future. Now, as she watches her “little girl” put on her maroon cap and gown, Betty scrolls through mental images from the past two decades. From the moment she first held her adopted baby when she was just six weeks old, to the many times she saw her little girl with blond hair in pigtails playing with toys on the family room carpet.

The close bond between the two was solidified during Reanna’s high school years when they started every morning together at their local Starbucks with a bagel and coffee.

“She has always been exceptional,” Betty said. “She’s very focused on her future, her career and what she wants out of life, and that included a college degree.”

Betty said at times a college degree seemed “out of reach.” A hospice nurse, she is the sole financial provider for Reanna and her four siblings who were also adopted.

“I remember her talking about college, but didn’t know how that was possible,” she said. “Of course with Reanna, nothing is impossible.”

Reanna got a running start with college while still in high school. She planned to supplement her scholarships and financial aid by getting a job with Starbucks. She began as a barista on her 18th birthday, a few days before the company launched the Starbucks College Achievement Plan with ASU in the summer of 2014. Reanna then canceled her plans to go to college in California and enrolled in ASU classes online.

Now an assistant store manager, Reanna has a bachelor’s degree in Global Leadership from ASU’s W.P. Carey School of Business.

“What’s next for me is to continue finding my true passion, volunteer in my community and then pursue a master’s degree,” Reanna said. “Through it all, I know I want to stay with Starbucks and be an ambassador for the Starbucks College Achievement Plan.”

Starbucks College Achievement Plan 2016 Yearbook

Meet some of the partners who participated in ASU’s Commencement on campus. In their words, they explain what their new degree means to them.

Diane Trimble, 7-year partner

This degree is a foundation for my kids. I have three teenage boys and one of them will start college this fall. At age 40, this has not been easy, but I hope I’ve inspired my sons to realize that you can always complete your dreams and goals.

Samantha Davis, 3-and-a-half-year partner

I did this for my dad; he told me to go back to school. My dad passed away a year-and-a-half ago from pancreatic cancer, so I did this for him. It’s an emotional day for me. I did it. He didn’t have a college education and he wanted me to be happy and go further with my career. I’m not sure of what’s next, but I want to stay with Starbucks because my store has become my second home.

Miguel Del Rio, 1-and-a-half-year partner

This means opportunity for me. I’m the first in my family to graduate and it’s been really tough. I’ve been working paycheck to paycheck, but I now have a degree and no debt. This is the beginning of good things to come for me and for my family too.

Laura Horelica, 10-year partner

When I graduated from high school, I went into the Army because I couldn’t afford college, so now to be able to come full circle and get a degree is amazing. My degree is in educational studies and my passion is working with children from low-income families to try to help them achieve despite some barriers in their lives.

Beth Valdez, 4-year partner

The Beth Valdez that existed 18 months ago is totally different from today. This is emotional for me because I wasn’t happy with the person I was. I made excuses for not believing in myself and in my dreams. But no more. I am proud of what I’ve accomplished and all that I went through to complete my degree. I feel confident and I’m more open to new perspectives and giving back than I’ve ever been.

Angela Compton, 2-year partner

I worked really hard for this degree, working at Starbucks fulltime and working at a nonprofit at the same time. I probably put in 80 hours a week, but it was worth it. I feel like my future is just beginning today and it’s exciting.

Ryan Rugnao, 10-year partner

I struggled a bit going to college at first, and was going to give up. When I heard about the College Achievement Plan I became inspired to give it a chance and complete my degree. Now I’m looking at getting into counseling and maybe even grad school.

Claudia Puga, 10-year partner

Thank you to Starbucks, because this degree is expensive and I’m so grateful. I moved to the United States from Mexico with my family when I was 15, and to me, it’s very important that I complete this degree not only for myself but for my family.

Courtney McGee, 5-year partner

This degree means everything to me. I had to put my education on hold because I couldn’t afford it. It took me eight years to go back to school, but Starbucks gave me that opportunity – they gift-wrapped it with a bow and handed it to me and I ran with it.

Rachel Rice, 5-and-a-half-year partner

I’m the first person in my family to graduate from college, so this means everything to me. Starbucks has given me the chance to fulfill a dream that I didn’t think would happen. I’m a store manager and this hasn’t been easy, but I’ve had encouragement from my partners and I’m proud of myself.

Valerie Javier, 4-year partner

I started off at community college not knowing what was next, then Starbucks announced this program and I knew I had to go for it. I’m so glad I did. I’m the first in my store and district (in New Jersey) to complete a degree through the College Plan. This was the beginning for me and now I’m planning to apply to grad school.

Emily Donovan, 2-year partner

I didn’t think I was going to be able to get through college because I have siblings and it would have been tough for my family to pay for school and I didn’t want to go into debt. But Starbucks made this possible and this degree means everything to me.

Nathaniel Madrid, 4-and-a-half-year partner

This degree means I have a foot in the door in a very competitive market. I’m happy that Starbucks has given me this opportunity. My degree has lead me to the field of marketing and public relations and I would enjoy staying with Starbucks.

Mary Hamm, 14-year partner

For me, this means I made it! I put my education on hold for so long and my kids have supported me and now I’m excited to say I just got a full scholarship at ASU to continue pursuing my master’s degree. I thank my family and Starbucks for making this possible.

Alexis Dwyer, 7-year partner

I’m moving on with my future! Before I wasn’t able to finish a degree because I couldn’t afford it, but the College Plan has made it possible for me to accomplish this. Now, I’m interested in getting my master’s degree in counseling because my parents are foster parents and they’ve taught me so much.

Carissa Jackson, 4-year partner

Everything. Completing my degree means everything. I was commuting for college until ASU and Starbucks announced this program, and it feels like they made it for me. I’m one of the first to graduate with a new major of organizational leadership, which was also created when the Starbucks program came out. It’s an honor.

Taylor Miller, 11-year partner

Having my degree is just another tool in my belt as I continue to grow in my career and develop as a leader. I want to stay with Starbucks and continue to grow as a leader in the company, and every chance I get I’m encouraging others to finish their degree through ASU. I have two other partners in the program and two more starting and it’s amazing to see how they push and support each other.

Natalie Parra, 6-year partner

I’m the first of my family and my husband’s family to get a degree. It feels like a new door has opened in my life. Ultimately I want to teach elementary education. (Natalie’s younger sister also joined Starbucks and is pursuing her degree through the College Achievement Plan).

Melaine Keen, 13-year partner

When the College Achievement Plan was announced, I said, "Why not?" When it was announced (in 2014) Howard said that if a parent completes their college degree, their children would be more likely to do so also. I wanted to inspire my son, and I think I did because now he’s wanting to be a Sun Devil too.

Zack Burr, 3-year partner

This degree means a lot to me because I had five years under my belt at another university and took some time off, but now I have an accomplishment having completed my B.A. I want to go back to school and get my MBA, but for now I’m looking at some other possibilities as an assistant store manager with Starbucks and ultimately with Partner (Human) Resources.

Emily Eskey, 10-year partner

To me this means accomplishment; I’ve finally finished something! I want to continue my journey with Starbucks and see how far I can take it. My advice for any partners considering finishing their degree is consult with your advisor early and often.

Sabrina Lipkes, 7-year partner

This degree means freedom for me! Although Starbucks and customer service has been a great experience, it’s time for me to move on. I want to be a social worker and make a difference in others’ lives. I think working for Starbucks and doing that every day in a small way has taught me how I can do that on a bigger scale.

Cass Mack, 2-year partner

Relief – that’s what this degree means. I have a degree that I can enjoy without stressing about student loans. I had a great time getting my B.A. and now I’m interested in getting a second degree in fashion design. I’d advise anyone to pursue a degree too and go at their own pace. It’s a great feeling when you’re wearing a cap and gown and know you did it.

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2024 Starbucks summer highlights