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Starbucks partner and ASU student becomes first in family to graduate college

Family and human development student Sarah Knapp.

December 05, 2017

Editor’s note: This is part of a series of profiles for fall 2017 commencement. See more graduates here.

For Sarah Knapp, it has taken six years to get to this day. After taking her general education classes at a junior college in Southern California, Knapp was ready to transfer and was beginning to apply to local universities. It was during this time that Knapp lost her mother — her biggest cheerleader — and decided to relocate closer to family.  

After moving near her sister in Northern California, Knapp was ready to get back on track when she learned about ASU Online and the Starbucks College Achievement Plan.

“I had applied to a few universities in the Bay Area where my sister lives. During this time, while I was trying to figure out where to live and what to do, I heard about the Starbucks College Achievement Plan and applied for a job with Starbucks,” Knapp said. “This eventually lead me to Arizona State."

The only person in her family to attend college, Knapp, a family and human development major, plans on working in special education after graduation: “The highlight for me during my program, was taking the child development classes. In addition to personal experiences I have had, it was fascinating to be able to interact with my nieces and nephews using what I learned in class and seeing the different development in action."

Knapp, who made the Dean’s List during her time at ASU and is looking forward to coming to campus for the first time for graduation, answered some questions about her experience with ASU Online.

Question: What was your “aha” moment, when you realized you wanted to study the field you majored in? 

A: When I was in high school, I volunteered in the office of a children’s therapist. Being able to work with her, and seeing the difference she made and the milestones the children were hitting was amazing. This started during my sophomore or junior year of high school and I continue to volunteer when I am back home.

Q: What’s something you learned while at ASU — in the classroom or otherwise — that surprised you, that changed your perspective?

A: I learned a lot about the importance of diversity. Being open to other people's backgrounds, their everyday situations and different opinions on topics that were discussed. Whether a slight difference of my own opinion, or a complete (180), it completely opened my eyes, that even if I didn’t agree with something, that it was OK.

Q: Why did you choose ASU?

A: When I moved to Northern California to be near my sister, I had applied and was accepted to Cal State Northridge. During this same time, as I was looking for a part-time job, I learned that Starbucks offered benefits to part-time employees, including education benefits through Arizona State University and the Starbucks College Achievement Plan. Given that I was starting college a lot later than some of my peers, I knew a number of people from high school that had attended ASU, and all of them talked about how the faculty really cared about their students. That was something I didn’t feel when I was in junior college, so that was huge for me.

After hearing about the experience friends had at ASU, and the Starbucks College Achievement Plan, I decided to apply for a job there. I have now been with Starbucks almost three years.

Q: What’s the best piece of advice you’d give to those still in school?

A: For students that are just starting out, I would say go for it. When I started going back to school, I was nervous and didn’t know what to do or where to start. Just getting started is the most important thing. Take it day by day. For those still in school, hang in there. It's been a long road, and many times I was ready to give up. But I was lucky and had a great support system behind me.

Q: What was your favorite spot on campus, whether for studying, meeting friends or just thinking about life?

A: Being an online student, I did most of my work from the couch in the living room, where I have a large window that looks out over my front yard. My boyfriend planted a beautiful succulent garden that you can see from inside the house, and it was really peaceful to look out onto while doing schoolwork.

Q: What are your plans after graduation?

A: I would like to find a job in the field of education, working with preschool-aged special needs students. My long-term goal will be going to graduate school and getting my masters in occupational therapy.

Q: If someone gave you $40 million to solve one problem on our planet, what would you tackle?

A: I would use the money to implement changes in the social services system. I was in foster care as a child, which was not a fun experience. I would love to see the system restructured and for children to be better cared for.

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