Pay it Forward icon 1Pay It Forward

Mandy Urwilerstarbucks

Are you between the ages of 16 and 24? Are you unemployed and not in school? Don’t worry — that’s common for youth who have been in foster care or who have experienced homelessness. If you fall into this group, some policymakers may call you an “opportunity youth.”

For many years, youth involved in Mockingbird or other programs that work with homeless youth and young adults (YYA) have said that the two most important things to get them off of the streets and prevent their reentry into homelessness are education and employment. Starbucks has decided to help address this issue across the nation.

Starbucks offers a program called the College Achievement Plan that allows employees working 20 or more hours per week to go to college at Arizona State University’s online schooling program for any undergraduate degree program that is offered. The College Achievement Plan also provides 100 percent tuition reimbursement for any out of pocket costs after other grants and scholarships.

“Hey! I think I’m an

youth —how do I get
awesome job AND
free college?”

Go online and apply at

In March of 2015, Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz announced something even more exciting. Within the next three years, he and the Starbucks Corporation have committed to hiring 10,000 opportunity youth. To help pay for the extra 10,000 employees, who will also be encouraged to get involved in the College Achievement Plan, the company is repurposing some of the Starbucks Foundation Grants. Starbucks will also partner with LeadersUp, an employerled movement to ensure young adults are prepared with the skills they seek. With those grants, Starbucks has set the goal of having 25,000 employees graduate college by 2025.

You may wonder, “Why would Starbucks decide to hire so many opportunity youth?” According to Blair Taylor, Starbucks’ Chief Community Officer, “We cannot drive performance sustainability if this group of young people is not engaged. They represent our future workforce as well as our future customers. I must stress that this is not about charity; this is about hiring fantastic, qualified candidates, who through no fault of their own, have not been afforded opportunities to get ahead. Despite their circumstances, they are resilient and motivated to succeed.” This quote clearly demonstrates Starbucks’ forward thinking and the hope of supporting our youth now in order to have a sustainable and capable work force in the future.

Will hiring 10,000 opportunity youth help prevent them from entering homelessness? Probably. Will it fix our YYA homelessness issues? Probably not on its own, but it will help to show other Fortune 500 companies that it can be beneficial both now and in the future to employ opportunity youth to create the future of the workforce and consumers. It will show other companies that employing AND educating opportunity youth now can secure a future not only for those youth, but also for the companies that have supported them.

<< go to June 2015 Mockingbird Times

We Welcome
Your Work

We welcome submissions of articles, poetry, artwork, and photography from our young readers who have experience in the foster care system and/ or homelessness. If you want to be, or have been, published in the Mockingbird Times visit, call us at (206) 407-2134 or email us at youthprograms@ Note: Incoming letters to the editor and correspondence to youth under 18 years should be addressed to the Mockingbird Times and will be opened first by adult editorial staff.