Skip to Content, Navigation, or Footer.
The Eagle
Delivering American University's news and views since 1925
Sunday, April 14, 2024
The Eagle
barista pic 3

Student Baristas: Finding connection behind the coffee counter

Employees would like some consideration for your cup of coffee

For many students, grabbing a quick coffee between classes is essential. It’s no surprise that student-run coffee shops The Bridge Café and The Davenport Coffee Lounge tend to have lines out the door and are so busy they run out of pastries before the day’s end. 

In the rush of orders and drinks, many forget the students behind the counter, like Janna Hilliard, a senior in the School of International Service who works at the Bridge. 

“It puts you in a different space when you’re the one serving your peers,” Hilliard said. “You’re working in the service industry, but still on the campus where you attend school.”

Struggling with the separation between classmates and coffee orders is not unique to Hilliard.

Julia Ford, the general manager of the Dav and an AU alumna, said she also wishes student customers were more courteous towards her employees. 

“I think people should have patience and empathy with student workers, realize that these are your peers,” Ford said. “Of course, things get frustrating and stuff but everyone’s just doing their best.”

barista pic 1

A snapshot of The Dav's employees with general manager Julia Ford sitting in front center.

Ford was a student at American University until she graduated in May 2021 from the School of Communication and College of Arts and Sciences. Having worked her way up the ladder at the Dav since her junior year, she recognizes how the small space, tucked in the corner of the SIS building, can sometimes be challenging with its plethora of customers. But, she said, it can also serve as a center of community.

“I applied and I immediately felt welcomed to the community,” Ford said. “I think because a lot of us do share financial background similarities, it's really helpful.” 

The Dav only hires students who are eligible for federal work-study, a financial aid program that helps students pay for college through part-time employment. 

Paying for college and its lofty expenses makes employment a necessity rather than a choice for many students at AU. According to the National Center for Educational Statistics, as of 2020, 40 percent of full-time undergraduate students in the U.S. were reported to be employed, both on and off campus. 

“I don’t always have the privilege of being a student first,” Hilliard said. “Sometimes I have to be a worker. I have to be an employee first because that's my actual livelihood.” 

Balancing on the tightrope of being a student worker is a challenge Lauren Cameron, an employee at the Bridge, is all too familiar with. 

Cameron, a junior hoping to graduate early from the School of Public Affairs, began working at the Bridge during the spring of her freshman year and is also its social media manager. Splitting her time between a Justice and Law major and two minors in Philosophy and Legal Studies has made Cameron “take advantage of [the Bridge’s] space. You might see me there after 10 p.m. just grinding on homework.”

For Cameron, workable spaces, such as the Bridge, emphasize the importance of student-run cafes on campus. 

“It allows for freedom in the job,” Cameron said. “Things you wouldn’t normally learn from being a barista I have learned at the Bridge.”

Student-run cafes and their profits can also allow students to give back to their community. Both AU campus coffee shops regularly collaborate with charities and different organizations on campus. For the month of March, students can purchase a strawberry matcha from the Dav in collaboration with AU Students for Justice in Palestine with proceeds going towards the Palestine Children’s Relief Fund, or a mint Arnold Palmer in partnership with BRAIN at AU supporting the Pediatric Brain Tumor Foundation. The Bridge is also partnering with AU’s First Generation Student Union to sell a hibiscus orange refresher for the beginning of spring. 

“Buying a coffee does a lot, not only for the people who work here but for the missions that we support,” Hilliard said. 

Supporting different causes also extends to supporting one another, even though the Bridge and the Dav sometimes infamously compete for student customers.  

“I think it's really cool to have another coffee shop on campus that is run by students,” Ford said. “I think we’re busy enough as is, I couldn't imagine the Dav being the only one on campus.”

Whether students decide to visit the Bridge or the Dav for their daily fix, the employees at both coffee shops encourage customers to stay courteous while waiting for their much-needed coffee. 

“Remember that we're workers too, we're also students, treat us with respect,” said Cameron, “We want to treat you with respect as well.”

This article was edited by Samantha Skolnick, Abigail Turner and Abigail Pritchard. Copy editing done by Luna Jinks, Isabelle Kravis and Ariana Kavoossi.

Section 202 host Gabrielle and friends go over some sports that aren’t in the sports media spotlight often, and review some sports based on their difficulty to play. 

Powered by Solutions by The State News
All Content © 2024 The Eagle, American Unversity Student Media