A Place to Belong

Written by Guadalupe Broetje, Servant Leadership Administrative Assistant

David Suarez working at the Collegium Cafe

David had a dream to work at a well-known and loved local drive-thru coffee shop with a friend. “You have a way with people; you’ll really fit in working here.” This was all he needed to hear to start dreaming about the possibility of joining a community that was welcoming, showed great hospitality, and was flexible enough to allow him to pursue his academic goals. A community, a place to belong, this was something he felt he was missing since he and his family relocated from the tight-knit rural community of Vista Hermosa in Prescott, WA in 2020. Last year, David decided to apply to the coffee shop. The hiring process for this company was rigorous and required the memorization of many ingredients and procedures for making their long list of coffee and energy drinks, while also learning how to embody the company culture. After going through this process, it wasn’t time for David to join the team. He understood that he would need more practice and more experience.

That opportunity for practice and experience came in the form of a volunteer opportunity at the Collegium Café as a Barista-in-Training. Since starting college in the last year, David had been using the Café as a place to study and meet with friends. As a frequent customer and visitor, he was asked if he would be interested in participating in their volunteer program, which gives the Café extra help during their busiest hours and volunteers the opportunity to gain marketable work skills and a letter of reference for future job endeavors. David remembered his dream and was onboard. Drawing on the skills he learned from the work trial last fall, he recalled “The espresso machine used at the Collegium is the exact same one the other company used. Before going through that hiring process, I couldn’t even tell you how it worked. Now, I am more comfortable with it; I feel like I have a skill that can benefit me in my work.”

David’s position as a volunteer at the Collegium Café ended when he accepted a part-time job with us a month ago. His dedication and welcoming personality has given him the opportunity for employment doing something he loves, in a place he loves, with people he loves. When I asked if he is still considering re-applying to the other coffee company David said, “I’m not sure, I like it here, I belong.”

This week, David was celebrated and recognized as employee of the month!

Note: David Suarez is also a RISE Scholar pursuing his general Associate of Arts degree at Columbia Basin College. As part of the RISE Scholars Program, scholars are asked to engage in meaningful community service for the purpose of finding their call and learning to serve others.

Lead cook Berenice Mendoza teaches David how to make a coffee drink

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