Keeyshonna’s Story: “I’m not just here to be here … I’m here to do the job, so I can get what I need to help myself outside of here.”
During her first week of FareStart’s Barista & Customer Service training program, Keeyshonna (she/her) kept her camera off and her answers blunt. As classmates introduced themselves, she wasn’t sure if or how she would benefit from opening up about painful turning points in her life.
Then her mindset started to shift when instructors and other students shared their own stories about challenges they had overcome — teen pregnancy, domestic abuse, incarceration.
“What made it so empowering is that I heard stories from other individuals that had similar experiences and come from similar backgrounds,” Keeyshonna recalled. “We were able to share our stories and actually be comfortable to be open with one another. I was like, OK, they’re kicking at personal points here. It started to hit home.”
By the second week, she logged into virtual classes with her camera on, focused and ready to engage. Once in-person training began, her work ethic and drive to exceed expectations impressed everyone around her. “She was teaching some of the trainers tricks and tips!” said Chermell Cain, FareStart Youth and Young Adult Online Manager. “She definitely flourishes in any type of situation.”
Keeyshonna, 24, had worked as a barista once before, in a grocery store café, but it wasn’t a setting where she felt like she could thrive. It was just a job where she had to “work, work, work — do this and do that” and not really care.
At the FareStart Café in Amazon’s South Lake Union Houdini Building, Keeyshonna felt encouraged to learn and grow, to make mistakes, to be patient with herself and others, and to develop both personally and professionally. “They let me know, you’re not alone. We’re here to support you. Don’t feel bad if you don’t know certain things. Don’t rush and dive in, especially if you don’t know what you’re doing. Ask the question. It’s okay, we’re here.”
She’s taken that advice and run with it at her job as a barista at a Seattle airport café. “I ask questions, sun up to sun down,” she said. “I actually like this job and want to keep it. So I’m asking what I need to be doing. How do you make this, how do you do that? How can we work together and get along? I’m not just here to be here … I’m here to do the job, so I can get what I need to help myself outside of here.”
Keeyshonna channels calm, quiet wisdom when she talks about all she’s gone through in life — losing her mom when she was little, moving from her grandmother’s care into the foster care system, becoming a mom as a young teen, losing custody of her son, falling in and out of homelessness. She enrolled in the Job Readiness Pathway of FareStart’s Barista & Customer Service Program this past spring, training 10 hours a week for six weeks. She and her classmates learned the basics of barista work and customer service, how to show up as reliable employees and advocate for themselves. They worked on their resumes, practiced interviewing for jobs and honed strong communication skills. “I used to be afraid to speak my mind,” Keeyshonna said, “like I was offending someone. I’ve grown into this strong personality over time. I had to.”
Keeyshonna learned a lot about showing up for herself as well. “If I could talk to my younger self, there were so many times when I felt like, oh my gosh, if I'm having a hard time, I've got to kind of swallow it for the workday and just ride. I think it's really a gift that FareStart can teach you that people have bad days, but as long as you can still do your job, you can lean on people. Having a little bit of trust and being vulnerable is a life skill that no one ever taught me.”
She also learned quickly that she was the only one who could change her path forward. “FareStart is a place that’s going to open your eyes to things you might not have thought of before. You have to look at the big picture and not just think about yourself sometimes. I feel like I snapped to my age, because I was kind of acting like I was still a child. I’m an adult now and certain things are in my control. So sometimes you just have to snap out if it.”
One day at a time, Keeyshonna is taking sure-footed steps toward financial stability and independence. “Every day you show up at your job and have a positive day, that’s just like one more day of stability,” she said. “And that does something to your own sense of how you show up in the world.”
Keeyshonna’s voice perks up when she talks about the business she hopes to run one day: a store where she would help women explore looks that bring out their unique beauty, whether it’s a new outfit, some accessories that pop, whatever feels true and authentic.
“That sounds spot on,” said Shania Doud-Bauer, another trainer in the Barista & Customer Service Program. “I feel really excited to see all the things Keeyshonna accomplishes, knowing how motivated and passionate she is — not just about herself and her own journey but about other people’s journeys as well.”
FareStart’s Barista & Customer Service Program for youth and young adults has worked with over 1,600 students and assisted with hundreds of customer service job placements at local retail, food service, coffee shops and other businesses.