Central Washington University
Persistence Pays

Persistence Pays

Zabrina Jenkins Never Lost Sight of Her Lifelong Goals

Zabrina Jenkins had a plan for her life. From a young age, she wanted to be a lawyer. Her goals were to graduate from college, attend law school, and pursue a legal career.

While things didn’t quite go according to plan, they did work out in the end.

The first step followed her blueprint when she was accepted at CWU. There, she attended classes, earned good grades, and even played on the women’s basketball team. She was on track to reach her dream of becoming a lawyer, but upon earning her undergraduate degree in 1992, she decided to take time off before starting law school.

Jenkins became an admissions counselor at the University of Puget Sound. As she entered her second year in that position, she realized she needed to get serious about going to law school and not abandon her dream of becoming a lawyer. So, she applied and was accepted into the Syracuse University College of Law in New York.

“I want people to know that in their future, if they encounter something that takes them off their original path, it's okay. It's an obstacle, but it doesn't have to be a barrier.”
—Zabrina Jenkins

The first year seemed to go as well as she could have hoped. She worked hard in her classes, studied all year for her final exams, and lined up an exciting summer job abroad.

But shortly after arriving in London, Jenkins received a phone call from her parents. They had received a letter from Syracuse informing them that she had failed most of her exams and, if she wanted to stay in law school, she would have to plead her case to the school’s dean.

“I thought, well, if I didn’t learn anything in law school, at least I learned how to argue and to advocate on my behalf,” Jenkins said.

She returned to Syracuse to go before the dean, who listened and determined that while Jenkins was serious about school, it might be best to take a year off to reflect on her goals.

“At that point, my confidence was at an all-time low,” Jenkins said. “I had gone along this path of everything going well and I really hadn’t encountered many setbacks. All of a sudden, I found myself in a position where I wasn’t going to be able to achieve my dream and my goal.”

That’s when Jenkins decided to set her sights on earning a master’s degree. Newly energized, she received her degree two years later. Next came the difficult decision of whether to return to law school or look for a job.

After much consideration, she chose to go with her original plan and re-enroll in law school. She also decided to start at the beginning by retaking all of the same law classes. This time, however, she made the dean’s list at the end of the first semester, while also working part-time for the university as a graduate assistant.

“While it was difficult to go back, I always kept in mind what my father told me: ‘The best doesn’t come easy, that’s why there’s nothing like it,’ which I wrote on a board above my desk, always reminding me that if I really wanted something, it was worth putting the work in to get it,” Jenkins said.

From there, she was accepted into the Moot Court Honor Society, received a summer clerkship with a Southern California law firm, and, during her second summer, worked for a Seattle law firm. She finished strong during her final year of school, graduating cum laude, with a Juris Doctor degree.

Jenkins returned to Seattle and had been working for four years when she got a call from one of her mentors. The mentor, a Central graduate who worked at Starbucks, told Jenkins she’d be a great candidate for an open position within the company. Jenkins got the job, and advanced within the company over the years.

Jenkins, who’s been at Starbucks for more than a decade, is the Vice President/Assistant General Counsel of Global Litigation and Employment, as well as interim Chief Ethics and Compliance Officer. She is an active volunteer in many different legal and civic organizations and has given back to her alma mater by serving on the CWU Foundation Board of Directors and College of Business Advisory Board.

“I think, oftentimes, people see successful people, but they don’t really see the path and setbacks that they have encountered along the way,” Jenkins said. “I want people to know that in their future, if they encounter something that takes them off their original path, it’s okay. It’s an obstacle, but it doesn’t have to be a barrier.”

In other words, persistence pays.


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