What’s More Important Than Making Coffee?

Tay Grad Pic
Tayler’s graduation from Chemeketa.

What’s more important than making coffee?

Building relationships with the teens who make the coffee.  I would like to introduce you to two young people who have volunteered at Bridge Street Coffee House for the past nine months.

Tayler Cavan came into the shop on a Friday night after a high school football game.  Her boyfriend’s mother said, “I bet Tayler would enjoy working here, don’t you think so Tayler?”  Tayler shyly shook her head yes.  I told Tayler she was welcome to come back and give it a try.  Again, she shyly looked at the ground, shrugged her shoulders and said, “Okay.”  My first impression of Tayler was that she wouldn’t actually come back.  I thought she was probably just being polite.  She was so shy, I could not see her working in a coffee shop taking orders and serving drinks.  To my surprise Tayler did come back into the shop ready to learn and to work.  Since then Tayler has been an integral part of the development of the coffee shop.

I would learn that Tayler was supposed to be a senior at Sheridan High School.  However, she dropped out and had plans to attend classes at Chemeketa.  I encouraged her to pursue that goal.  We always tell the youth that school takes priority.  We are constantly talking about the importance of education.

Tayler faced many challenges during her sophomore and junior years at SHS, including losing her only brother in a tragic accident at the beginning of her sophomore year.  Of course, this had a devastating affect on her desire to be at school.  At the beginning of her senior year, the goal of graduating by traditional means seemed impossible.  She chose to drop out of SHS and enroll in classes at Chemeketa Community College.

I am beyond proud and honored to know this magnificent young woman.  She is so intelligent, so creative, and so talented.  It is a privilege and an honor to have her working in the coffee shop.  Within two weeks of working in the shop, she was looking customers in the eye and speaking confidently to them.  Tayler is so kind and so considerate.  Within a couple months Tayler was hired by a drive-through coffee company, but she continues to volunteer more than 20 hours a week at Bridge Street Coffee House because she loves being here.

I am also excited to share with you that Tayler worked two jobs and pursued her high school diploma through Chemeketa.  We celebrated each milestone with her as she passed the test for each of the core subjects.  Tayler proudly received her high school diploma just last week.

I asked Tayler if it would be fair to say that her time in the coffee shop helped her to achieve her goal to graduate.  Without hesitation, she responded, “Most definitely.”

Julio Grad Pic
Julio and Tayler at Julio’s graduation.

Julio Padilla is the first to graduate from high school in his entire family lineage.  He made history!  I have known Julio his whole school career.  He attended school with my son Evan.  Julio was initiated in to the shop because Tayler is his girlfriend.  He has helped out with many late night projects including putting up shelving, fetching supplies, and rolling the dough and cutting out 75 gingerbread houses. About midway through the school year, it came to my attention that Julio might not be on track to graduate.  We encouraged him on a regular basis to keep working hard.  I was so impressed with Julio because even though he was facing many obstacles, he kept showing up at school every day.  As the months to graduation turned into weeks to graduation, we started to have more serious conversations about what it would take for him to graduate with his class.  We would break it down into doable goals.  He was encouraged to communicate with his teachers and ask for help.  It became a little inside joke that he was “making history.”  We couldn’t let him fail because he was making history.  “You can do this Julio.  You’re making history.” With just one week to graduation, Julio had accomplished many goals in the areas of math, Spanish, and world history.  He just needed to write an essay, complete his senior portfolio, and take one last makeup quiz.

I am proud to say that history was made on June 10th, 2016 when Julio walked across the stage on the Sheridan High School football field to receive his high school diploma.  I asked Julio the same question I asked Tayler, “Do you believe your time here in the shop and our influence helped you to graduate?”  He shook his head yes and said, “Yes, absolutely.”

Since taking over the shop on July 1, 2015, we have helped six teens get jobs at other coffee houses, restaurants, and a sporting goods store.  One teen was told that she was specifically chosen over the other applicants because of her customer service experience here at the shop.  I also believe that we helped to inspire no less than four young people to complete their high school education while working here in the coffee shop.

What’s more important that making coffee?  Changing lives!!

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