By Aaron Coleman
First-Year AmeriCorps member on the Horning Family Foundation team serving at Garfield Elementary School

With free Wi-Fi, handmade lattes, oven toasted sandwiches, spotless bathrooms, handsome leather armchairs, and more, Starbucks appears to be a self-contained community – a budding ecosystem of millennials, young professionals, and coffee connoisseurs.  The company's stores are an oasis of convenience, caffeine, and comfort, where customers often seek haven from the outside world. But the idea that Starbucks is only an isolated microcosm, beginning and ending at its stores front doors, is false. The Starbucks community is much broader, much bigger, and much more ambitious than its cozy coffee shops. 

Every Starbucks store is a part of a community,” declares the pledge on the company website, “and we’re committed to strengthening neighborhoods wherever we do business...We encourage partners to lead and participate in projects that align to our commitment to disconnected young people.” This commitment to empower disenfranchised youth is one of the hallmarks of Starbucks’ work in the community, and it is a commitment that, I as a City Year DC AmeriCorps member, can personally attest.

On Friday, April 17th, local Starbucks partners will trade their aprons and carafes for paint buckets and brushes when they head to Hart Middle School in Southeast DC in collaboration with City Year DC for Starbucks’ Global Month of Service, which takes place every April. There, they will join me and 50 other City Year AmeriCorps members to serve alongside DC Public Schools high school students for Starbucks Service Day 2015.

Together we will paint murals commemorating notable Washingtonians Marion Barry and Frederick Douglass, restore past school beautification projects, and design composition books for Hart’s Creative Writing Club. The service day will provide Starbucks volunteers an opportunity to build community with Congress Heights residents and expose students to future careers within the company.

While Starbucks Service Day is the company’s most visible collaboration with City Year DC, the company is constant supporter; whether it's donating coffee to teacher appreciation breakfasts, or a lending helping hand at our service days, they stand by us year-round. They don’t just believe that community needs can be addressed and improved by mobilizing people in service, they actually do it. So the next time you step inside a Starbucks and you are lulled by the aroma of exotic coffee and the comfort of crafted wooden stools, know that the company isn’t just working to improve their cafes, they're working to make the world outside a little better too.

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