Where did you grow up?
“I grew up in South Jersey. Real close to the beach. I’m like, 20 minutes from the Shore. Went to the beach all the time. Grew up surfing.
I love the freedom of it. You go out into the waves and you’re just on the water. If you want to catch the wave but if you don’t want to, you don’t have to. That controversy of ‘I’m going to catch the wave and get the thrill of it and ride it to the shore’ or ‘I’m just going to hang out here for a while.’
I have three older sisters, so I was kind of the boy of the family because they didn’t like sports as much. My dad and I would just play sports. That was something we did together.
Coming to Penn State has been weird because I haven’t had opportunities to do that. Everything is so competitive at Penn State. I did some intramural stuff and then I started to do ice skating and I started to get good at that. So, I took some classes and I can do spins and jumps now.”
What brought you to Penn State?
“I didn’t apply to any other schools. Just Penn State. My dad and my mom both went to Penn State. That’s where they met. My two older sisters went here. My two cousins went to Penn State. My aunt and uncle went to Penn State. You can definitely say we’re a Penn State family.
We grew up going to football games. My dad’s brother has season tickets here. It’s funny because I actually told myself, ‘I’m not going to Penn State. That’s my parents’ and my sisters’ place.’ I wanted a new place to start my own path. Then, I just ended up coming here. There’s no place better.
We have a strong academic program. There’s so much to do. We have a huge campus. There’s so much to explore, there’s a lot of opportunities. I feel like if I went to a smaller school, even the bar scene, there’s just a lot of people and a lot of diversity. You really find your niche here.”
Did you always know you wanted to major in occupational therapy?
“No, I was actually in engineering. I was always good at math and science. Both my parents were engineers so I was just like, ‘That’s my fit,’ even though I knew from the start that wasn’t going to be it.
So, I came to Penn State with no other options. I hadn’t really thought about it. It was a good engineering school. I started out in it and we had like, two girls in my classes. The classes weren’t that bad. I was doing fine in them.
I did that for about a year and I was just like, ‘This is not me at all.’ I’m more of a people person. I like to help people. I guess it was my sophomore year I decided to transfer out of engineering. I basically looked at every single other major at Penn State and was like, ‘What should I do?'”
I started on communication services and disorders path. My roommate was in RHS (rehab and human services). I was like, ‘That sounds super cool.’ So, I looked into that major a little more and occupational therapy was in it too. I transferred into that major my second half of my sophomore year. I really enjoyed it and my classes were a lot of fun. Just recently, I started applying to graduate school.
It’s definitely and up-and-coming field. A lot of people don’t know about it. People know about speech pathology and physical therapy and then OT is the other one out of the three. Speech is very much verbal and how people speak better. Physical therapy is very physical, after someone had a stroke or something.
Occupational therapy is more functional. You help people function after they’ve had a deficit somewhere. You help them in different areas and it kind of encompasses all of the three. You pretty much help them live their life again. If someone had a stroke or something, you can assess their house. Figure out how they go to bed at night or put on their socks. Stuff we take for granted.
Where I want to work, I want to work with kids with developmental disabilities. If they grew up with cerebral palsy, especially in a school setting, help them learn. It’s kind of like special ed. You help them learn with the other kids and help them have the same advantages.
That even encompasses mental disabilities. My current internship is at the youth service bureau. It’s so cool because it’s with kids who have had mild to moderate crimes. You pretty much help them get their life back again and to have a better future.”
Has anything happened at your internship in your first week that stuck with you?
“This one kid, he had a pretty in-depth record with the law. I actually went to his court case and met with his probation officer. He did a lot of mild crimes but it all stemmed from his home background. He was in an in-patient juvenile-type facility and he is just coming back to his family again.
It was cool because at first, he didn’t really find his niche. His probation officer, he was really into volleyball. He coached volleyball and basketball. He was like, ‘I’m going to get you on the basketball team.’ So, he told that to the kid and the kid loves basketball, but never really had the opportunity to play. His parents couldn’t drive him there and he didn’t have the shoes or anything.
The probation officer got him the shoes and jumped through the hoops for him. I actually got to take him to his first basketball practice which was super cool. Afterwards, I got to pick him up and he was so excited. Because of that, I feel that it’s going to give him a reason to do something with his life.”
What brought you to Starbucks?
“I’ve always loved coffee and I was a gold card member before starting the job. I love cafes and coffee shops in general. So, I called them one day and was like, ‘Are you guys hiring?’ I really wanted to work at the one on North Atherton because I felt it would be a different setting than the ones downtown. I liked the idea of the drive-thru and driving to work.
I spoke to one of the supervisors who said they would schedule me for an interview and I was like, ‘I’m free today.’ So, I came in like, an hour later and had the interview. Then, I met with the store manager a few days later and was hired. I was super pumped about it. Just the idea of Starbucks. Such a good name and brand.
They have an all-new level to efficiency and everyone is super nice. Even with our drive-thru, it would seem like a fast food-type restaurant but it’s one level up from everything. You have to be super nice because you have to live up to the name. When people think of Starbucks, people think of quality.”
What did you expect to get out of Starbucks while working there?
“You kind of have to do everything. You have to be efficient. You have to make the drinks super-fast. You have to be super friendly to everyone who comes in. Give good customer service. You have to multi-task, especially in drive-thru. You have to be a well-rounded employee which is different from other jobs.”
What’s a circumstance where you felt like you made someone’s day?
“Jade. I love Jade. Jade is a customer who always comes in through drive-thru. She always gets a jade citrus mint, one bag in, one bag out. She’s awesome. I started calling her Jade because of her order.
I would get excited when she came in because she’s so nice. That would make me want to be nicer to her and make sure her drink was right. That would make her day too. She was always super happy when she came in and made that connection. We were both super excited to see each other.
Definitely making people’s days, as simple as getting them their coffee or knowing their drink, means a lot to them. Sometimes I would even be like, ‘Jade, is that you?’ Just recognizing her voice.”
Where do you see yourself next?
“Depending on where I go to grad school, if I go home to New Jersey, depending on my program, I might get a part-time job. What’s so nice about Starbucks is that you can transfer anywhere. It’s so easy to do.
Especially being trained at Starbucks, they know you’ll be a good worker. You can go anywhere and have a job secured, and a good job. An enjoyable job. I love making drinks and helping out customers.
So, if I went back to New Jersey, I would probably get a job at Starbucks. It would be a cafe which would be a slower pace which would be weird. I think it would be a good atmosphere though because it would be more about making that connection and making the drink right as opposed to the efficiency of it.
If I went to a school in Philly, that would be cooler because their stores would be busy. Even after I graduate, if I still want to do Starbucks after, it’s always going to be there. There’s always an opportunity for a job.”