Portraits of Starbucks’ ASU Grads

Hundreds of Starbucks partners are graduating from Arizona State University this week through the Starbucks College Achievement Plan, which offers tuition reimbursement. Some started college years ago and had to stop. Others are the first in their families to graduate with a college degree. Some wanted to set the example for their children that it can be done. For all of them, it’s the culmination of hard work and determination.

Meet some of them here, just as they are stepping into futures full of opportunity. 

Brandy McIntosh, 31, Tucson, Ariz.

Barista, Store 98011. 4-year partner. Bachelor’s degree in psychology

Getting a degree is … The one thing I’ve wanted to do. Goal: I’m hoping to move on to my master’s and someday open my own practice, with a focus on relationship therapy.


Felicia Thompson, 29, Antioch, Calif.

Shift supervisor at Store 6914. 12-year partner. Bachelor’s degree in information technology.

Getting a degree is … My biggest accomplishment. My sister is graduating high school and she is also a partner – she is thinking about SCAP too. I’m trying to set an example for everyone in my store. Goal: To be happy. Getting this degree filled a part of me.


Ada Braswell, 56, Seattle

Executive assistant at Starbucks Support Center. 4-year partner. Bachelor’s degree in operations management

Getting a degree is … A huge accomplishment. I have two men in my life, [my boss] Cliff Burrows and [my husband] Jesse. I’m the first in my family to get a degree. Goal: It will help in my role now and in the future. I couldn’t have done it without Cliff, he feels like he should have an honorary degree with me.


Kelsey Laubie, 22, Brea, Calif.

Shift lead at Montevista Anaheim Hills. 4.5-year partner. Bachelor’s degree in healthy lifestyle coaching

A college degree means … A new start. (Mom: A dream come true!)


Aristotle Jefferson, 25, San Jose, Calif.

Bachelor’s degree in public policy and service. 2-year partner.

Getting a degree is … Years of hard work. I couldn’t have done it without my fiancé, mom, dad and step-dad. Goal: To change the world little by little. This is the first step in that – definitely a dream come true, I’m a first-generation college graduate.


Kimberly Benson, 50, Seattle

Shift supervisor, Covington Esplanade store. 3-year partner. Bachelor’s degree in communications

Getting a degree is … A new chapter and an opportunity. I went to college for two years after high school, then all four of my kids graduated from college and they said, “you have to do it, you can do it, we’ll help.” Goal: I want to work for SCAP! I didn’t think I would ever do this – my children inspired me.


Abby Stover, 25, Fullerton, Calif.

Barista, Cypress Village store. Two-year partner. Bachelor’s degree in mass communications and journalism

Getting a degree means … I have persevered and made it through. I’ve proved that I can finish what I started. Goal: I’m excited to travel and see what the real world has in store for me. Traveling to Europe (England, France, Greece)


Kristen Pilcher, 29, Rancho Cucamonga, Calif.

Shift lead at Store 13681. 10-year partner. Bachelor’s degree in education

Getting a degree is … It means a lot. I never thought I’d graduate. Goal: Become a teacher. Be able to let kids know they can dream.


Brandon Anders, 34, Mesa, Ariz.  

Regional operations specialist/branded solutions (SoCal). 14-year-partner. Bachelor’s degree in business sustainability/certificate in applied business data analytics

Getting a degree is … Lots of opportunities for continued growth and learning. I finally did it! I’ve been thinking about doing it for a long time. It was a dream to finish and Starbucks made it possible for me. Goal: To be my best self – continue learning and growing. And to set a good example for my kids who are 9, 7 and 5.


Tai Winn, 23, Utah

Shift manager at Riverton, Store 10881. 1.5-year partner. Bachelor’s degree in health sciences with a minor in criminology.

Getting a degree is … Everything. It shows I can do whatever I want to do. Goal: To go into forensic science.


Aimee Denkers, 37, San Diego

District manager, District 524. Bachelor’s degree in organizational leadership.

Getting a degree is… I’m a first-generation college graduate. My 8-year-old will be here today for commencement. It’s about inspiring him no matter what obstacles. I’m a district manager, a wife, a mom – I always thought I was too busy to go back.

Goal: I plan to go into PRO. I’m taking my SPHR exam later this year. And, to just get more people enrolled. I would not have finished without this program.


Krystle Ziegler, 33, Burien, Wa.

Store manager, Westwood Village. 7-year partner

Getting a degree means … My girls can aspire to pursue their dreams and never quit. Goal: Leave this “place” better than I found it.


Allison Wood, 22, Puyallup, Wash.

Barista at Auburn Outlook Collection store. 2-year partner. Bachelor’s degree in English.

Getting a degree is … I want to be a teacher, and I have a passion for teaching. Goal: I want to be an outlet for kids in high school. My teachers in high school were really there for me.


Cameron Saylor, 24, Sacramento, Calif.

Barista at Elkhorn and Diablo. 6-year partner. Bachelor’s degree in nutrition communications

Getting a degree is … Opening the next chapter of my life. Goal: To help as many people as I can.


Brynn Perez, 23, Tucson, Ariz.

Shift supervisor, Store #14809. 5-year partner. Bachelor’s degree in criminal justice

Getting a degree is …[Something] I’ve been wanting to do this my entire life. Next will be the academy. Goal: Attend the academy and pursue a career in law enforcement. Deputy sheriff in Pima County.


Alyssa Fagan, 23, Jersey City

Shift supervisor at Store 14479. 2-year partner. Bachelor’s degree in art history

Getting a degree is … Very fulfilling. Goal: To support my family.


Donald Reid, 53, Chicago

Shift supervisor at store at Orchard and 88. Bachelor’s degree in liberal studies

Getting a degree is … It was a huge accomplishment. More of a milestone I never reached when I was young. To realize I could still learn … We are an interesting story: I have two daughters are college graduates and the third is a college freshman. They inspired me. Goal: Manage some stores – and who knows?! You never know.


Becca Badger, 35, Seattle

Social Customer Care at Starbucks Support Center (HQ). 12.5-year-partner. Bachelor’s degree in human and family development

Getting a degree is … Amazing. I’m a single mom with two kids, and I didn’t think I’d be able to finish. A month after I became a single mom, Starbucks announced SCAP and I joined the first year. Now I’m a college grad, two and a half years later. It would have been out of reach without Starbucks. Goal: I’m a lifer with Starbucks. I want to continue to grow – I might also be a lifer with ASU, they have an online master’s degree in my major as well.


Brittany LaMaide, 23, Geneva, Ill.

Store manager in DeKalb, Ill. 5-year partner. Bachelor’s degree in technological entrepreneurship and management

Getting a degree is … An opportunity to move forward. It opens new doors. Goal: To pursue a career in something I love.


Christina Downard, 23, Sacramento, Calif.

Barista at Rockland store. 2-year partner. Bachelor’s degree in criminal justice

Getting a degree is … Life. Freedom. I moved to California from Arizona. I was going to go to ASU before I moved – I was going to have to take out loans or take five years. My grandma found out about SCAP – and I looked into it and it was actually a thing! That I was committed to the program allowed me to take a year off to do a leadership training that required you be in college. The training shaped me, and I found my husband.  And I got my degree in a year and half instead of five years! Goal: To do crime scene investigating and work with the FBI.


Dylan Barnes, 25, Las Vegas, Nev.

Shift supervisor, Store 5561. 4-year partner. Bachelor’s degree in business sustainability

Getting a degree is … A step in the right direction. Goal: Applying for the Peace Corps, then government work or grad school after that.


Elainne Bojorquez, 30, Los Angeles

Regional operations specialist/branded solutions (SoCal). 11-year-partner. Bachelor’s degree in sociology

Getting a degree is … I’m finally done! I wanted to prove to myself that I could. Starbucks gave me the opportunity so I could. Goal: Continue to show partners we can always grow. We can do anything we put our minds to.


Jeanette Schmall, 31, Redding, Calif.

12-year partner. Bachelor’s degree in sociology

Getting a degree is … A dream come true. I have always wanted to have my bachelor’s. Goal: More schooling. Research in sociology is a dream. It is a pivotal point to have this accomplishment.


Mary Hicks, 32, Grand Junction, Colo.

District manager, District 957. 4.5-year partner. Bachelor’s degree in liberal studies

Getting a degree is … Everything. I wasn’t going to go – I was already doing what I wanted to do. I had never finished – it was choosing between salary and debt, and chose salary. My two sons graduated last year and they said, if we can, you can. So, it was how do I pay it forward and inspire other partners? I was adopting two girls just as the SCAP opportunity came up. But I did it anyway and it’s been amazing. It’s super flexible and you can do it on your own timeline. Now the girls are here to watch mom walk.

Goal: To get as many partners enrolled through SCAP. It is an opportunity and responsibility as a company to provide that people not start life out with debt.


Sam Suminski, 25, Gresham, Ore.

Barista in Gresham. 6-year partner. Bachelor’s degree in communications

Getting a degree is … The end of a long journey – start of a new beginning. Long overdue. One of my proudest moments. Goal: Have an incredible career and perfect family with the love of my life.


Susan Mojica, 35, Alexandria, Va.

Shift supervisor at Hybla Valley. 3.5-year partner. Bachelor’s degree in healthy lifestyles coaching

Getting a degree is … It’s an investment not just for myself but for my family. It has given me confidence. Goal: To get through the master’s program!


Victor Gutierrez, 24, Cave Creek, Ariz.

Shift supervisor at Scottsdale/Ashler Hills store. 4-year partner. Bachelor’s degree in healthy lifestyle coaching

Getting a degree is … It means a lot to me, it was interesting to me because I chose to study something relevant to me. Goal: Find a career where I’m happy. That will be working with kids and sports.

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