Retail’s Pathways: How Retail Helped Me Plan for the Future•
This post is a part of our November blog series on Retail Pathways, to continue the conversation about our latest report, Retail’s Opportunity, which was released during the 2016 Opportunity Summit, thanks to the support of the Walmart Foundation. Stay tuned for more stories like Savion’s (below) and Jordan’s, on how opportunities in retail lead to broader career pathways.
Without the opportunities granted to me throughout my life I would not be where I am today. They have made me who I am. I am now a first generation college student with a passion for affecting change through our democratic process, studying Public Policy at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
I was born and raised in Madison by a single mother; my upbringing was a modest one in means but rich in love and I was taught invaluable lessons. At times things got difficult, especially when I continued to see barriers to my or others’ advancement firsthand, but I continued to view higher education as my true pathway to opportunity. Especially because in 6th grade I was accepted into UW-Madison’s PEOPLE program — a comprehensive pre-college program that targets low-income and underrepresented communities, starting with students as early as second grade.
But my retail experience was a vital stepping stone. I worked regularly at Best Buy on evenings and weekends as a PC Sales Associate for close to two years while I attended high school and it was a major stabilizing factor for me. Having the responsibility that came with my job and being a part of something bigger than myself gave me better habits and allowed me to help my family financially. My job taught me to save money and appreciate the value of a dollar. Through Best Buy’s college savings account program, I was able to save money for college and begin to understand and plan for my financial future.
In addition to the financial support and lessons, my job was a place where I felt valued and could contribute in different ways than in school. I had something on the line there and that changed my life. My job experiences and the skills I gained – for example, time management, working with a team and communication skills – also contributed to my many activities outside of work and high school, especially related to my advocacy work. I served on various community committees like the Length of Stay Criminal Justice and Body Camera Committee at the county level, successfully advocated for banning the box for Madison city jobs so that employers consider a job candidate’s qualifications without the stigma of a criminal record and have been active in the Black Lives Matter movement.
Retail is not my long-term career, though for many others it can be. It was a great stepping-stone in my path and I see a lot of unique ways for the retail industry to truly open opportunity to folks. Since many high school students and young adults work retail jobs, I think the retail industry can specifically have impact on college students’ success by expanding college savings account and scholarship programs. Because I know what retail did for me and the potential it has to do the same for so many others, I hope the retail industry continues to think outside the box and innovate to benefit from our hard work and also set us up for the future.
(From second-left to right) Opportunity Leaders Savion Castro, Bryant Plank and Phillip Tyron at the 2015 Opportunity Summit.