My Only Way Out

(is to go so far in)

starbucks has a heart

Posted by Cauri on June 3, 2006

What a lot of people don't realize about starbucks is that we're required to constantly hold "make your mark" events–basically a lot of volunteer work.  We have to involve ourselves in as much as we can, and for each event, Starbucks gives $10 per hour to the organization for every volunteer who shows up…up to $1,000.  I really like that they do this, and it's one of the reasons i was so excited to work for this company, but it's not something that many people are even aware that we do.  They really put a lot of pressure on us when we first opened, because we'd only done like 2 events in the first couple months of the year.  So far, we've done six (a walk for breast cancer, a run for congenital heart defects in children, cleaning up a local park…)  We're also doing a lot of other volunteer things that don't count as make-your-marks (like having a clothing drive for the battered women's shelter, collecting cell phones for AIDS, giving out thousands of dollars worth of free coffee at events for things like substance abuse awareness, and giving all leftover pastries to the homeless shelter 3 days a week).  A lot of people are so quick to bash starbucks, but what they don't realize is, if every store is as involved as our store is, do you realize how much of a difference we can make?

Yesterday we went to a fair at a school for autistic children in rockaway, where we had to paint their faces.  This was definitely an experience.  For one, i am an absolutely terrible artist.  I can get away with flowers and dinosaurs, but any kid who wanted anything different, (like the one who only wanted batman and ended up with a squiggly black cross on his face) was in trouble.  The kids were really great…They were all so excited to be there, and it was fun interracting with them…The teachers, on the other hand, made me sick to my stomach, and after a couple hours i was ready to leave.  Just the way they treated the kids…it disgusted me, and i don't understand how a school with 75 students, and a staff of 45, could be so clueless. We were talking enthusiastically to every child who came and sat down with us…Of course my first question was always, "Do you like dinosaurs??  How about green?"  And most kids enthusiastically smiled back.   There was one kid who didn't really respond to amy, but she was still talking away (about things like puppies and asking what colors he wanted, just making cheerful conversation) and one of the teachers stuck her face in and said, "They don't really talk."  We were mortified.  They don't really talk??  She just announced that, nonchalantly, in front of an entire group of kids, teachers, and parents!!

A lot of the kids who came and sat down obviously didn't want to be painted on.  I'd touch their cheek and say, "Can i paint a dinosaur right here?" and obviously if they backed away, i immediately moved to their hand, and said, "What if i paint it right here so you can look at it all day!"  A lot of times, that worked fine.  But still, some kids didn't want to be painted on, so i'd give them some stickers and let them just paint around on a paper plate.  That was fine with me, the kids were just so excited to be there.  But a lot of teachers would step in and yell "Just paint his face already!"  And i'd say, "Umm, he's ok, he doesn't really want it."  Meanwhile, he'd be squealing in delight just by painting the little plate in front of them.  Then the teacher would say "Just do it anyway!"  And if i'd touch their face again and they'd respond with a shriek or backing away, there was no way i would paint on them.  So then that was it, the teacher would force them out of the chair and put the next kid there.  That really upset me.  Can't you just let the kid enjoy a few minutes of painting, especially if they're so excited that they're squealing? 

I just felt like nobody actually listened to the kids, at all.  There were two teachers that i saw the entire day who actually seemed nurturing and would calmly explain to the kids where they were going next and what they needed the kids to do.  The rest of the day, everybody was constantly yelling at the kids.  We heard a constant flow of the same phrases all day, screaming at them to sit down and stay still.  It made me jump.  They were just constantly snapping at the kids, and i HATE that.  That was one of the biggest reasons i left daycare, because i couldn't stand the teachers who were so worn out, so incapable of communicating, that they'd spend day after day, yelling at the children, making them feel insignificant.  NO child deserves to be yelled at like that, ever.  And it's appalling that autistic children, children who are already so in-tune with their environment, so highly sensitive to their surroundings, go to school everyday to be yelled at and ridiculed.

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