This post was adapted from a story by Kelly Sheppard about Arizona State University graduate Sirikwan O’Gorman, who got a free education through the Starbucks College Achievement Plan. The article originally appeared in the Starbucks Newsroom. Read the full story here.
How many people can say that a coffee shop is paying for their college education (and transforming their life in the process)? Thanks to Starbucks, the answer is over 7,000 and counting. It’s all part of the Starbucks College Achievement Plan , which started three years ago and lets employees—or “partners” as Starbucks calls them—choose from over 70 online undergraduate degree programs from Arizona State University with full tuition-reimbursement. So far, more than 730 Starbucks partners have changed out of their green aprons and into maroon caps and gowns to graduate from ASU. Along the way, they’ve been backed by the support of the close-knit Starbucks community.
Sirikwan O’Gorman, a member of this year’s graduating class, has an especially remarkable story. She grew up in Thailand, inspired by the work of her grandfather, who would invite anyone who needed healing to their countryside house so he could help them get better. Sirikwan saw the impact her grandfather made on so many lives and knew she wanted to one day pursue a career with a similar impact.
This May, she proudly walked across the ASU stage to receive a degree in Healthy Lifestyles Coaching—an achievement made even sweeter by the fact that she’s the first in her family to earn a college degree.
But Sirikwan’s path here wasn’t an easy one. Her grandfather, the person who inspired her career path, died in 2001, compelling her mother to give the family a fresh start, away from Thailand. So she moved to the United States to find a job, leaving Sirikwan and her brother back home with their grandmother. It wasn’t until five years later that her mother returned to Thailand to bring her two children to Las Vegas. Adjusting to life in the United States was challenging for Sirikwan, who was a high school student at the time. But she dedicated her spare time to studying hard and taking additional night classes. Because of that dedication, she graduated high school with straight A’s and went on to enroll in the University of Nevada Las Vegas.
Paying for college wasn’t easy, so Sirikwan started working two different part-time jobs. Little did she know, both would change her life for the better. Her first job, a receptionist at a dentist’s office, ultimately determined her future career. At her second job as a waitress, she met her now-husband, Kevin O’Gorman. At the time, Kevin was working at a nearby hospital, but he later joined the Air Force with the goal of becoming a doctor one day. Because of Kevin’s career path, the two relocated from Las Vegas to Maryland and Sirikwan left school at the University of Las Vegas Nevada.
It was in Maryland that Sirikwan found a job as a Starbucks barista—and a support system in the process. Since she wanted to complete her college degree, a store manager encouraged her to take advantage of the Starbucks College Achievement Plan. It was another life-changing decision that earned Sirikwan the Bachelor’s degree she’d been working toward for so many years.
Now, countries away from where her story started, Sirikwan has a college degree and she’s following in her grandfather’s footsteps. She’s pursuing a job as a dental hygienist, where she’ll be able to both help people and find work she loves no matter where she and her husband move in the future.
Ready to join a company that believes in empowering its partners (employees) and providing a college education? Starbucks is hiring baristas across the country, so head on over to WayUp and apply.