Testimonial- Meet Ray a former student living a life with purpose!

testimonials wellbeing Jan 01, 2019

When I first met Ray, he shuffled into the building before the build-out was completed.  We were in the process of interviewing candidates for the first baristas we would hire at our new Artistas Café. This was to be a unique program, created to provide young adults diagnosed with Autismthe opportunity to receive job training and become employed. 

I remember that Ray looked down at the floor most of the time during our chat.  When asked a question, he would pause and hold his finger up, signalizing that he was still thinking about his response.  However, his responses were worth the wait because it was evident that he was (and is) a bright young man.  He would periodically touch his head or his glasses in gestures that I assessed as being more of a repetitive movement or physical “loop” for him.  

Ray had never been a paid employee; however, he was an unpaid intern shredding paper in an office.  He strongly expressed his desire to have a paying job and that the idea of working in a café appealed to him.

We hired Ray on the spot because we knew he needed to participate in this program and we knew we wanted him to be a part of what we were building.  We also knew that we would need to work with him in several areas, but that it would be worth it as we could clearly see what a bright light he was. 

After only a few months of working at the Café, Ray’s growth was astounding!  He could now look those he spoke to in the eye, his processing speed had significantly improved, and his head touching gestures had almost completely disappeared. 

Ray worked with us through the entire eight years that the Café was in operation, progressing from a one-bean barista (signifying that he was in training) to a four-bean barista (meaning that he was a Master Artista).  Ray mastered all aspects of the Café, including beverage making, opening and closing the café on his own, cash handling, inventory management, and all while providing excellent customer service to the guests.  In addition, I think Ray only missed two work days during those eight years!  He was also the guy who always got there an hour before his shift, ready for work. This job was a match for Ray, making me so happy that when the Café closed, Ray got employed with a "Proudly Serving Starbucks" café on a local University campus. 

I recently had lunch with Ray, just to catch up with him and see how his life was unfolding.  He shared that while it's already been a couple of years since he worked at Artistas Café, he still enjoys making beverages and waiting on customers.  We are so proud of Ray and his continued progress.  Keep on shining brightly, Ray!