Articles: The Upwardly Mobile Barista & College for the Masses

[These articles make a good pair so I thought I’d share them with you simultaneously.

The premise in the article from the Atlantic about Starbucks and Arizona State University is that Starbucks is helping employees pay for college. But the article makes it clear that the support goes well beyond the financial — “The research tells us that what really matters for low-income and first-generation students,” [Daneil Greenstein, head of college-completion at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation] said, “is that you put your arms around them.” Advisors and counselors build relationships with students and use those relationships to support their success at Arizona State. This really resonates with my experience this year and in college. Are there small nudges that I could incorporate into my work with my students? How can I get better at metaphorically putting my arms around my students?

Even my students attending elite schools next year will need more than a scholarship; they need a quiet place to do their homework, support navigating complex social dynamics, and resources that money can buy but scholarships don’t. Summer reading books, uniform sweaters, class trips — many of these elements are not covered by scholarships. The article tells the story of one student who, after her laptop was stolen and she had no money for a new one, finished her course using her iPhone, much like my students who wrote their high school application essays all from their phones.

The article concludes with the message that the program is imperfect, but that the leaders of both the company and the university are striving to make it better. They are “listening to students — and then making structural changes based on their feedback.” What would it look like to expand this concept to not only other universities, as the article suggests, but to school systems in general? What would our students suggest? Will the act of listening to them help them succeed?

The article from the New York Times concisely states: “…the two studies have come to remarkably similar conclusions: Enrolling in a four-year college brings large benefits to marginal students.” They complete degrees and earn more money. But the students also develop grit, that favorite education buzzword, while in college. Too many people, the article asserts and I agree, think that college might not be for other people’s children. How do we shift policy and opinion so that more students fall into the “our kids” column instead of the “other people’s kids” column?

Ultimately, these articles are not just about college. If college is a priority for your kids, how do we make sure that my kids graduate too?]

The Upwardly Mobile Barista

Amanda Ripley; May 2015, The Atlantic

Mary Hamm was in pain, though it was hard to tell. She bustled around the Starbucks, pouring drinks, restocking pastries, and greeting customers with an unshakable gaze perfected during 25 years of working in hospitality. Her smile said, How can I help you? Her eyes said, I know you’re going to order a caramel Frappuccino, so let’s do this.

{Mary Hamm, on duty at the Starbucks she manages in Fredricksburg, Virginia. (Charles Gallung)}

Occupying prime space in a Fredericksburg, Virginia, strip mall, beside a Dixie Bones BBQ Post, this Starbucks pulls in about $40,000 a week. Hamm, 49, had been managing Starbucks stores for 12 years. The problem was her feet. After two decades in the food-service business, they had started to wear out. She had two metal plates in the right one, installed over the course of five surgeries. Now her left foot needed surgery too. She doesn’t like to complain, but when I asked her how often she was in pain, she smiled and said quietly, “All the time.” Continue Reading –>

College for the Masses

David Leonhardt

April 24, 2015 New York Times

Growing up in Miami in the 1990s, Carlos Escanilla was a lot more interested in hanging out with friends and playing music than in school. The son of immigrants from Chile, he slogged through high school with a C+ average and scored about 900 out of 1,600 on the SAT. “I was convinced I was going to be a famous rock star,” Mr. Escanilla, now 36, said.

When people talk about four-year colleges not being for everyone, the teenage Carlos Escanilla is the sort of student they have in mind. He seemed to be a much better fit for a job, a vocational program or a community college.

Yet on a summer night in 1997, a friend persuaded Mr. Escanilla to try to enroll at nearby Florida International University. Continue Reading –>

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