‘They are all cheering me on’: Amanda Dasher is first in her family to earn college degree

Amanda Dasher’s father is one of 10 siblings. None of them have a bachelor’s degree from a four-year college or university. Her mother is one of five siblings. None of them have one either.

When Amanda graduates in May with a degree in organizational leadership from Arizona State University – as part of the latest cohort of graduates with the Starbucks College Achievement Plan (SCAP) – it won’t be just her celebrating, it’ll be her entire extended family.

“They’re all cheering me on,” Amanda says. “My degree means the world to me and will be one of the biggest accomplishments I have ever received.”

Amanda grew up in Santa Fe, N.M. Her father was in the Navy. While she was a strong student, she never felt any expectation to attend a four-year school after graduating high school. She didn’t receive much guidance either, in terms of taking standardized tests or filling out college applications and financial-aid forms.

She worked at a restaurant in New Mexico and took classes on-again off-again at a local community college, taking about 10 years to get an associate degree in business.

In 2014, Starbucks first introduced SCAP – which covers 100 percent tuition toward a first-time bachelor’s degree through ASU’s online program. Amanda jumped on the offer soon after. Of the approximately 14,000 U.S. Starbucks partners taking advantage of the SCAP benefit, more than 20 percent, like Amanda, are first-generation college attendees.

She ran into a big roadblock that first year, though. She had just been promoted to store manager in Albuquerque, N.M., and had difficulty juggling classes with running her store full time. She ended up failing three classes and faced academic probation. 

“I never expected that to happen,” Amanda says. “I didn’t think I’d be finishing. This was not a proud moment for me, and I knew I had to turn it around.”

But then she found out that she was pregnant with a boy. In 2017, when Mason was born, Amanda had a new motivation: making sure that her son would be proud of his mother, and making sure that he’d grow up with two parents who had college degrees. Her husband, Brandon, also a Starbucks partner, also took advantage of the SCAP benefit and received his degree in 2017. He now works at the Starbucks Support Center (SSC) in Seattle at the Partner Contact Center while she manages a store in Snoqualmie, Wash.

Amanda, 32, hopes to use her degree and continue advancing within Starbucks, maybe applying for a store support role at the SSC, or trying to become a district manager.

She’s also been an evangelist for the SCAP benefit in her stores, talking it up to partners, especially the ones who might need financial help to go to school. She’ll celebrate with one of her shift supervisors, who’s also graduating this May, and three other partners she’s close with are also taking advantage of SCAP.

Amanda was planning to go back to Santa Fe to celebrate with her extended family, but COVID-19 lockdown measures have squelched those plans. She hopes to visit her family when travel restrictions loosen. Her relatives are ready to see her.

“Inside I knew she had it in her, she is a strong individual like that,” says Amanda’s aunt and godmother, Brenda Montoya, of Santa Fe. “The way Amanda was, she just wanted to do it on her own. She just kept at it. It takes a lot of self-discipline.”  

Amanda’s honor cords – a recognition of her high GPA – came in the mail recently. Thinking back to the classes she failed when she first started at ASU, she can’t help but be amazed.

“Sometimes, I want to not feel proud of it because it took me so long to get here,” she says. “But it feels great knowing I got it done and I didn’t quit when it got rough.”

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2024 Starbucks summer highlights