Students and faculty may recognize Alixandria Stafford, student as the barista who makes their coffee and smoothies at Java Jazz. Coworkers recognize her as a friendly and talkative staff member. Regular customers may know her for making conversation or remembering their orders. But how well do customers really know the 19-year-old barista?
Stafford began working at Java Jazz in the fall of 2017. Her favorite part about the job quickly became her friendly coworkers and boss, as well as the good-natured customers.
“The coworkers here are fantastic,” Stafford said. “They’re so fun to work with. I’ve never had a mean customer here — I’ve had a few bad days while at work, and some of the other students [who] saw me, came up to me, and told me they hope I have a better day. I’ve never had anyone ever do that to me outside of this school.”
Maggie O’Sullivan has become a good friend of Stafford’s this semester. The pair started working at Java Jazz at the same time, but only started being friends as their schedules overlapped.
“[Stafford] gives really good advice,” O’Sullivan said. “She can be serious and awesome and really helps me get through things sometimes. Also, I live vicariously through her sometimes because I like to sit at home and watch movies on the weekends, so I listen to her party stories.”
Partying is a self-proclaimed hobby of Stafford’s, along with shopping and hanging out with friends. During the week, though, she works 20-25 hours at Java Jazz and is enrolled in six credit hours at the college. Ultimately, Stafford plans on graduating and becoming a middle school math teacher.
“I love math because there’s always only one right answer,” Stafford said. “I think people don’t like math because it is very tedious and if you mess up one thing, your whole answer can come out wrong. But with the right teacher, you can absolutely love math. I want to be someone that middle schoolers can go to.”
Originally, Stafford came to the college in 2017 to pursue her degree. However, her plans came to a screeching halt after her father passed away that fall. Two years earlier, her mother had passed away. The combined grief, as well as a multitude of family troubles afterward, led to Stafford’s education taking a backseat.
“[In my life this far,] I’m most proud of going back to school and trying again,” Stafford said. “I got on academic suspension because I was extremely depressed and feeling so bad for myself and just really longing for my mom, and then my dad passed while I was in my first semester of school during the fall. I just couldn’t get myself to care about [me] and my future, and I felt really helpless and alone.”
Stafford has a younger sister and brother, who both live in Indiana. Stafford is originally from there as well, but left so she could start somewhere new, with “more opportunities and fun things to do.” Her siblings, she said, are the most important people in her life.
“Me and my siblings are extremely close,” Stafford said. “I would do absolutely anything and everything for them. Our parents passing definitely made us even closer. We had to really be there for each other and help each other out. We had never been close to anyone else in our family except our mom, so when she passed it felt as if we were all we had.”
Despite these struggles, Stafford has chosen to remain optimistic. Her mantra is, “this is just a minor setback to a major comeback.” From working at Java Jazz to enrolling in classes this semester with a determined attitude, Stafford’s comeback doesn’t seem far off.
“In life, you will have lots of setbacks,” Stafford said. “I like to think of those setbacks as setting me up for something bigger and better. It’s a more positive outlook on the negative things that happen in life.”