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Starbucks’ ‘Upstanders’ Returns to Share Stories of Real People Effecting Extraordinary Change

Upstander Chad Houser quit his job as the executive chef at a hot Dallas eatery to open a restaurant staffed almost exclusively by former juvenile detention inmates. | Image credit: Starbucks

Starbucks is harnessing the power of new media to highlight the efforts being made by real people across the United States to effect positive changes in their communities. The coffee giant has brought back its Upstanders original series for a second season, which features stories of ordinary people showing extraordinary courage.

The series was written and produced by Howard Shultz, Executive Chairman of Starbucks; and Rajiv Chandrasekaran, Starbucks Executive Producer and a former senior editor at The Washington Post. The series is available online via the Starbucks website, Amazon Prime Video and Audible. An exclusive full-length documentary of the series is also available to Amazon Prime members and an exclusive audiobook narrated by Michael B. Jordan is free to listen to on Audible. Upstanders is also available on Watch, a new platform for episodic shows on Facebook, with new episodes every Monday and Thursday.

“The Upstanders series is all about telling stories of ordinary people who demonstrate extraordinary courage. Rajiv and I hope this series will inspire everyday citizens to give something of themselves in service to others,” said Shultz. “Spreading that message has never been more important than it is today and we are pleased to be working with content leaders like Amazon and Audible to amplify this powerful movement even further.”

According to Chandrasekaran, the series aims to shed light on a different side of the US, one that is often not depicted on television or social media. “These are compelling, original stories of empathy and civility, of friendship and love, of selflessness and sacrifice. These stories are set in small towns and big cities, from coast to coast, and they introduce us to people who are fearlessly challenging the status quo and making our communities better.”

This season, Upstanders follows the stories of Ami Vitori, who tapped her retirement fund to help rebuild the Rust Belt community of Middletown, Ohio; Brandon Dennison, who tackled poverty in his home state by creating opportunities for former coal miners; Mary Poole, who convinced her community to welcome refugees by harnessing hundreds of volunteers; Chad Houser, who opened a restaurant staffed almost exclusively by former juvenile detention inmates; among many others who put everything on the line to make their communities fairer, safer and more sustainable places.

“The heroics of this seasons’ Upstanders remind us that there are countless untold stories of courage and extraordinary acts happening across communities in America today,” said Schultz. “In every community, there are stories of compassion and respect and of people who have a willingness to fight for what they believe in, and to unite despite our differences. As a company, we believe we have a role and responsibility to share these kinds of stories and help inspire the kind of action that helps create opportunities for all.”

In honor of Upstanders Season 2, the Starbucks Foundation is launching the Upstanders Challenge to celebrate charities that are making a difference in their communities. The Foundation will award 25 grants of $25,000 to eligible 501(c)(3) nonprofit organizations in the United States. The contest is open now and will run until 11:59 PM PT October 31, 2017. The winners will be announced by November 30, 2017.

Additionally, Arizona State University (ASU) has partnered with Starbucks to develop additional resources for Season 2 of Upstanders, such as a Discussion Guide, which poses though-provoking questions for educators and citizen change-makers to facilitate engagement with the series. ASU has also created suggested lesson plan activities for teachers to implement in their classrooms targeting students in grades 5-12. The activities aim to aid students in considering the issues and actions presented in select Upstanders videos and prompt students to think critically about how they can improve issues in their own communities.


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