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A homeless kid's path crossed with a kind Starbucks manager. The rest is history.

Add sheer determination to a stroke of good luck and you get a double shot of humanity for the win!

A homeless kid's path crossed with a kind Starbucks manager. The rest is history.

Matthew Tejeda has big plans for how he'll help others who started off like he did — with the odds stacked against them.

Having bounced around from home to home as a kid, relying on the help of friends and without the guidance of parents, Matthew had a rough transition into adulthood.

When school ended and he had no place to call home and no schoolmates' couches to crash on, Matthew was finally homeless.


Matthew, when younger, with a tiny friend. Images courtesy of Matthew Tejeda, used with permission.

A stroke of good luck paired with a tenacious drive to overcome his misfortune turned everything around.

According to Forbes magazine, a friend of Matthew's arranged an interview for him with a Starbucks manager, Debbie Dooknah. Debbie knew about Matthew's situation when she met him, and decided he was qualified and could do well if given a chance.

She trained him and kept his personal life between the two of them — she was the only one he worked with who knew he was sleeping in a shelter when he'd leave his work shift.

The room assignments at the shelter Matthew sought refuge in.

Matthew concentrating at work.

But it wasn't all smooth sailing for Matthew once he landed the job.


Matthew with his manager Debbie and a friend. She took him out to dinner for his birthday and took him shopping so he'd have something he could wear to a restaurant.

He had his work uniform stolen out of the laundry at the shelter, and he was unable to sleep at the shelter on the nights when it was loud.

He says a tenacious mindset is what helped him hang on.

"I just kept reminding myself that if I put one step after the other I could make it happen. My good friend Liz is an author of the NYTimes Best Seller 'Homeless to Harvard' and in one of her speeches she said 'What transforms a life? One empowered choice after the next over time.' I think that accurately described my thought process at the time. I knew what failure felt like and that absolutely wasn't an option."

Matthew also carried a key in his pocket every day. It was a talisman to remind him what he was striving toward — a home to call his own.

He eventually got his own apartment by saving his paychecks, along with a little help from a brilliant Starbucks program.

Starbucks partners (employees) who want to chip in to help other partners in need are able to do so through their "CUP Fund" (Caring Unites Partners). With that and his savings, Matthew was able to cover the deposit and first month's rent to move into his first home of his own.

The manager, Debbie, who took a chance on him, is now his best friend.

And now Matthew is working in real estate for NYC's renowned Corcoran group, but he still keeps shifts at Starbucks on the side because he loves it so much.

He plans to use his experiences, and what he learned from Debbie, to help others.

"In our hearts lies the key to change and growth, if we can unlock that we can help others accomplish amazing things. It is my dream to eventually give back and completely alter the lives of youth who have been cast aside, abandoned or written off.
Within their pain there are reservoirs of ambition and passion waiting to be tapped into and if you manage to get through you help not one but many more, as that person will likely go on to help others."


Leaders who empower others are exactly what the world needs more of.

The good you do for others can multiply in ways you'd never imagine.

This isn't just the story of one guy who caught a lucky break and overcame his lot in life. And no, not every person who finds themselves homeless will be so lucky or have the able body and mind to do what Matthew did, for a variety of reasons.

But it is a clear reminder to those in a position to be instrumental to others — in any way — that we can use our powers for so much good as long as we look out for those opportunities when they come.

Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
True

Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

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Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
True

Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

Keep Reading Show less