MEL Student Brews Up Opportunities for the Homeless

In a cool café, cozied up in the coffee capital of the world, the drink that transformed an entire city is also changing lives: giving young adults at risk of living on the streets a new chance at life. CLU student Isaac “Ike” Bubna is social venture program director for Street Bean Espresso, a nonprofit multi-roaster coffee shop in Seattle that provides opportunities for street-involved young people to reclaim their lives, one cup at a time. It’s his job to help guide those in the program, to give them work and life skills and ensure their successful transition to independence and stability. “We use coffee to help them develop their own selves and to be their own person,” Ike explained. In partnership with the New Horizons organization, Street Bean Espresso gives the homeless or those at-risk of living on the streets new job skills, counseling and assistance to get their lives back on track. The son of an evangelical pastor, Ike had originally dreamed of following in his father’s footsteps and entering the church ministry. During and in between college and religious studies, he spent the last 10 years working in the coffee industry as a barista, roaster and manager. It wasn’t until he moved to Seattle that his dream of helping others and his passion for coffee infused into this ideal life blend. “I did not personally design this to happen,” Ike said. “In a very odd way my schooling and experience led to this happy occurrence where I get to do a little of both.” After reading about Claremont Lincoln’s Master’s in Ethical Leadership program in the Chronicle for Higher Education, he immediately wanted to sign up. “I thought it was the perfect opportunity,” Ike explained. “The MEL program brings together my interests and philosophy.” Most of the young adults Ike helps are between 18 and 22 years old. Street Bean Espresso offers them training and work experience, and guides them through a series of life skills courses on budgeting, resume-building, and tips to find housing. The nonprofit partners with other organizations to help them complete their high school education and enroll in community college. Ike speaks proudly about the recent success of one program participant, who saved up money to buy a car, enrolled in college and now lives in an apartment paid for with money he earns at a new job as barista at a coffee shop close to campus. To date, Street Bean Espresso has helped more than 30 people get their lives back on track. Ike is applying the skills he’s learning at CLU to the task of strategic planning for the organization. It’s his goal to build on the internship program and to develop it into a model that can be expanded and replicated in other industries. In the meantime, he’s finding that developing grace in the workplace is leading to greater success, not only for the organization, but for those going through the program. “A lot of these young adults don’t have the tools or skills many of us take for granted,” he explained. “Many don’t have phones. Transportation can be an issue. They show up late or unprepared for work.” Ike’s challenge has been to bridge the clear boundaries and quick consequences of business with the grace and patience needed to help the program participants succeed. Their success is the mission of the organization, and it spreads exponentially. “A happier workplace communicates something better to our interns, to our employees, our customers and our business,” Ike said. “Overall, it makes our world a better place.”

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