By Kelly Sheppard / Starbucks Newsroom
Early in her teen years, Isamar Campos’ rebellious lifestyle created havoc in the Carson, Calif., home she shared with her mom and dad.
“I was hanging out with the wrong crowd,” she said. “Their influence convinced me that I didn’t have to show up for school or concentrate on my school work. I could just party with my friends and have a good time. I saw the pain I was putting my parents through, but I just didn’t care.”
Her parents tried everything they could to help put her on the right course, but nothing seemed to work, remembered her mom, Maria Campos, on a recent morning a few days before Mother’s Day.
“My husband and I fought hard to point our daughter in the right direction and motivate her to go to school,” she said. “We were constantly lecturing her about the importance of education, but she had completely lost interest and we just couldn’t control her behavior.”
After getting kicked out of two public high schools for truancy and falling short of the credits needed for graduation, Isamar Campos, now 19, watched as her peers at her third high school received their diplomas. She knew she needed to change.
“It took me longer than most, but I finally began to mature,” she said.
Two years ago, she enrolled in City of Angels School, an independent studies program, and studied at home while she earned her high school diploma. She also began looking for work. When her older sister, Rocio, a counselor at El Camino College, told her about a Los Angeles job fair in February 2016, she went with her mother in tow. Little did they know it would change both their lives in ways they hadn’t expected.
The job fair was conducted by the 100,000 Opportunities Initiative, the country’s largest employer-led coalition committed to creating pathways to meaningful employment for people ages 16-24 who aren’t working or in school. Starbucks is one of 50 participating companies that make up the coalition. It will hold its next Opportunity Fair on May 19 at the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center in Dallas, where more than 1,700 job interviews are guaranteed.
For Isamar Campos, the opportunities presented at the fair were life changing – not just for her, it turned out, but her mother as well.
The courage to start again
Maria Campos, 56, had given her daughter a ride to the job fair and decided to stay until it was time to take her home.
“I was seeing the many changes in Isamar and we were growing close again,” she said. “I was so happy that she was working to get her diploma and I wanted to support her in finding a job.”
The pair wrangled their way through the crowd of teenagers scurrying around the job fair, learning how to dress for interviews, updating their resumes and brushing up on their interview skills. Isamar Campos spoke to representatives at several companies, but avoided the section where Starbucks was interviewing young people.
“I didn’t think that I would get a job at Starbucks,” she said. “I always thought that they had high standards and I didn’t believe I was up to them.”
Halfway through the five-hour fair, she was hired at a fast food restaurant and was ready to head home. Her mother had other ideas.
“There were so many companies represented and jobs to be had,” said Maria Campos. “I just wanted to make sure she had the right one.”
She persuaded her daughter to try Starbucks. She was one of the last people to interview with the company that day and remembers how nervous she felt.
“I remember that I was stuttering a lot and my thoughts were all jumbled up,” she said. “Mid-interview, I thought, ‘I’m not going to get the job.’”
But she did. And then, so did her mother.
“When Isamar returned from her interview with a job, I said as a joke, ‘I want to get hired too,’” Maria Campos said, noting that the job fair was focused on teens and young adults. “They took me seriously and invited me to interview.”
Returning to the workforce
Maria had not worked in more than 10 years. She grew up in the small town of Jerez Zacatecas, Mexico, and came to the U.S. as a 28-year-old single mom with a toddler, Isamar’s sister, Rocio. She moved in with two of her older brothers who had already immigrated to America and began work in an electronics factory. Two years later, she got a job in a medical clinic, where she met her husband, Julian. They married in 1997 and Isamar was born a year later.
Maria Campos was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1999, which returned a second time in 2003. That is when she stopped working to focus on her health.
“Fighting the cancer was challenging for me,” she said. “My two daughters had to watch me struggle for my life. When my doctor told me I was a survivor, I decided it was time to just enjoy my family.”
Having cancer changed her perspective, she said. “I focused on clear communication and being positive. I learned to show more love to my children. I had faith that everything would work out with Isamar. I am so proud of her.”
She’s proud of herself as well for being hired as a barista. “It was a very emotional moment when I got my green apron,” she said.
Since working for Starbucks, she has significantly improved her English-speaking skills, she said. “When I was a kid, my dream was to learn to drive, be an American citizen and learn how to speak English. I’m close to accomplishing all three.”
She’s also beloved by the partners at her store.
“It is inspiring to work with Maria. We embrace her as the mother figure in the store because she is older than the other baristas,” said Josie Martinez, who manages a store in Carson. “When she first started, she was quiet, but now she’s more outgoing and connecting with partners and customers.”
Isamar Campos is also thriving at her job as a Starbucks barista near California State University, Dominguez Hills, where she serves students and families in the residential area. Once shy and quiet at work, she’s learned to be more personable and speak her mind.
"I encouraged Isamar to get to know her customers and connect with them in her own special way, and she has done just that," said Cristina Martinez, the store manager where Isamar works. "She has embraced the Starbucks culture and remembers all her regular customers by name and drink."
“I shed this layer of myself and stopped hiding,” she said. “I’m more open and approachable. That’s one thing I love about myself now. That comes from meeting the partners at Starbucks and interacting with customers.”
She’s also earned her high school diploma and plans to attend Cerritos College in the fall to learn about cosmetology and become an esthetician. Further down the line, she wants to attend Arizona State University online through Starbucks College Achievement Plan and study business.
Since getting their jobs, the relationship between mother and daughter has taken on new dimensions, they say.
“Isamar helps me pronounce the names of drinks and how to make them. She is so encouraging,” Maria Campos said. “We talk about work every day. Our relationship is so much closer.”
Her daughter agrees. “My mom means the world to me. I know that’s a cliché, but that’s my mom,” she said. “I appreciate her for everything she has done for me. She could have given up on me a long time ago, but she stood strong by my side.”