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ASU graduate, Starbucks partner works toward life goal of serving as street outreach nurse

ASU Online student and Starbucks partner Jason Irlanda (back left) with his family

ASU Online student and Starbucks partner Jason Irlanda (back left) with his family.

May 08, 2020

Editor's note: This story is part of a series of profiles of notable spring 2020 graduates.

Jason Irlanda, a self-proclaimed military brat, spent much of his childhood in Connecticut and now resides in Omaha, Nebraska, where he works as a store manager at his local Starbucks. It was there that Irlanda found out about the Starbucks College Achievement Plan.

“I can’t honestly say that I chose ASU as much as it chose me,” states Irlanda, and upon learning about the coffee company’s partnership with Arizona State University, “I thought to myself: I get to go to a top-notch school and graduate debt free — this is a no-brainer.” 

After enrolling through ASU Online, Irlanda, who previously served as a foster parent, decided to major in family and human development with a minor in sociology in order to achieve his ultimate goal of working with the opportunity youthOpportunity youth are people 16 to 24 years old who are neither in school nor working. population. 

“Following graduation, I have decided to continue my education here in Nebraska. I am headed back to school at a local college for an accelerated BSN program and then on to get my doctorate in nursing practice. I want to get a job as a street outreach nurse practitioner for our local Youth Emergency Services nonprofit organization.”

As he approaches graduation and reflects upon his time at ASU, Irlanda says his best advice for future students is to plan ahead, starting at the beginning of the semester: “Take that syllabus and course calendar at the beginning of each session and calendar out your work, school, and life events so you can have a defined balance.” 

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

Answer: I realized when I was taking my sociology classes that I was fascinated by how so many aspects of our lives are influenced and shaped from the society we grew up in and currently partake in.

Q: Why did you choose ASU?

A: I was working at Starbucks when they announced the Starbucks College Achievement Plan and partnership with ASU. 

Q: Which professor taught you the most important lesson while at ASU?

A: I have to say there were three professors that I admire so very much: Dr. Krista Puruhito and Dr. Khaerannisa Cortes were amazing mentors when I was a TA for them both, and Dr. Casey Sechler took the time to connect with me on my future plans and talk me through her journey. Those relationships were invaluable to me on my ASU journey.

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

A: I would tell current students to give it your all, even when things seem like they are impossible to keep going. Sometimes the only way to get to the other side of a problem is through it, and that is how I made it through some of the classes I thought were going to overtake me. Take that syllabus and course calendar at the beginning of each session and calendar out your work, school, and life events so you can have a defined balance.

Q: As an online student, what was your favorite spot to study, or to just go and think about life?

A: Believe it or not, my favorite spot to power study was in my home gym. I would make flash cards and power through them as I was on the Bowflex Max or the elliptical machine. Workout for my body and mind all at the same time.

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

A: Without a doubt, I would tackle health care among the homeless population. Through health care interventions we can help those that are in need reach potential. A healthy body and healthy mind help to heal the soul and give people the confidence they need to pursue new opportunities to better their situations.

Written by Tuesday Mahrle, earned media specialist for EdPlus at Arizona State University

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