Mata crosses five years at Starbucks while Rise’s MEC program celebrates 30 years

Mar 22, 2023

Mata for web

For many of us, our regular stops for coffee include interactions with a friendly barista at the café. At Starbucks in Vadnais Heights, one friendly face you will come across belongs to Mata Sisomnuk, a café attendant for more than five years. Mata is part of a community of thousands of people who work with Rise’s employment programs.

Mata, 44, participates in Rise’s Minnesota Employment Center (MEC) program, which serves people who are Deaf, DeafBlind, and Hard of Hearing in their employment journeys. Mata works at Starbucks three days a week during the busy hours of 10:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m. Her list of responsibilities include cleaning and replenishing of coffee makers and ice machines, organizing in the back room, custodial tasks throughout the building, and she sums it up by saying, “I make sure the place looks good for the customers.”

Mata meets with her Occupational Communications Specialist Ryan Miller every other week to ensure her employment needs are being met. “I am her job support,” shares Ryan. “I’m an advocate in a hearing-based environment.” This support includes job coaching, work evaluations, occupational communication support, and resumé development.

Ryan is there to bridge the gap between the people we serve and their work environment, including coworkers and managers who may not yet be familiar with Deaf customs or needs. “In our meetings, Mata shares updates about work, we navigate new trainings, and go over any challenges,” Ryan said. “Over-time, we make sure she can build up the skill to advocate for herself while at work, knowing I am also available to support.”

Ryan emphasizes the importance of steady employment for Mata. “It is essential to have a job and a reliable income. The acknowledgement and trust Mata feels getting and keeping a job is important for her mental health.” Ryan has also observed additional benefits from Mata’s time in her job. “She gets the added opportunity to be social, which doesn’t happen regularly for many people living in group homes.”

Another source of support for Mata is store manager Martin, who has been at Starbucks since Mata’s employment began. Over the years, Martin has made the effort to learn simple signs in American Sign Language as well as shared gestures with Mata to give job directions and provide assistance. Martin points out the value of Mata on the team. “She makes our days much better and has become so important to the team. She takes great care of so many things and keeps our store caught up.” Mata agrees that her talents are important to the whole team. “I am a very focused worker. I notice when help is needed and I get to work,” said Mata. Her dedication to her work is clear.

Martin acknowledges the value of working with Ryan and Rise. “Rise has made things really easy,” says Martin. “Ryan is such a help to stay connected to support us in making sure Mata’s needs are met.”

In her free time, Mata is passionate about cooking. “I am a creative cook. I am from Laos and love preparing Laotian food at home” Mata shares. “I like making spicy foods and foods that are aromatic. My roommates always notice the foods I make for myself.” Mata intends to remain at her job for the foreseeable future. “I’m happy to stay at Starbucks!”

March 2023 marks the 30th anniversary of MEC, a statewide program supporting people who are Deaf, DeafBlind, and Hard of Hearing as they discover and reach their goals. Mata’s Rise staff Ryan feels “thankful that I’m invited and trusted to work with this community.”