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Dashawn Hightower has a special connection to his team at Old Navy: his mom. Years ago, she worked at Old Navy with some of the same people who would eventually become Dashawn's managers.
Now a Training and Business Operations Specialist at Old Navy’s flagship store in Manhattan, Dashawn got his start through Gap Inc.’s This Way Ahead, a life-skills and paid store internship program that helps 16- to 24-year-olds get started with their first job. This Way Ahead “taught me career skills, how to build a résumé, how to act in certain situations, and how to be a professional,” he said. Dashawn, who graduated from This Way Ahead in 2013, will be an intern manager for this year’s class.
He’s developed a following of customers who ask for him by name, thanks to his positive and infectious attitude. And don’t let his love of sneakers or deep-rooted family values go overlooked, either. Meet Dashawn.
What do you do for Gap Inc.?
I’m here to create an environment where Old Navy shoppers feel comfortable, and have a store experience that makes them feel like they’re at home. And I’m also here to inspire the associates to go further in the company.
What inspires you?
When I was three years old, I was diagnosed with kidney cancer. God blessed me, because what were the chances that I was going to be here? I treat every day as a blessing. I’m here to show what I’m made of.
Be different, that’s my motto. I own a whole lot of Old Navy, but I like to make it my own style. Really a mixture of things.
I like to wear a black button down with a pair of distressed jeans — not too distressed — and a pair of Chelsea boots.
All-time favorite piece of clothing
Has to be my sneakers, which are Jordans. My favorite pair are the He Got Game 13s, because my mother and I waited outside for hours for the release, switching in and out of the car, waiting in the line.
Excited to say that I just paid my own rent for the first time ever!
What you’ve learned from customers
Every customer is different, and they actually feed off your energy. A customer can be feeling down, but if your energy is positive, you can change their mood and create a great experience for them in an instant.
Favorite Gap Inc. / Old Navy moment
It was one of my coaching moments when I was a This Way Ahead intern almost three years ago. I was pulled into the office, sat down, and asked what I wanted to do. When my manager said “I see potential in you,” it was the first time someone took the time to show interest in my career. And it opened the door for me to continue within the company. I will never forget that day.
How has your mother influenced you?
She raised me and my sisters by herself. She is the strongest person I know.
Are you doing anything special for Mother’s Day?
Usually I buy her the sneakers she wants and take her out for barbecue. But this year she really wanted her own apartment, so I gave her the money I had been saving to buy a car. She needed the last bit of it to officially move out. It was more important for her to get her apartment.
Why did you apply for This Way Ahead?
When I was in high school, I didn’t have my own money to go out with my friends. The program told me that they would teach me the skills I needed to help me get a job, and that they would pay me at the same time. So, I get paid and I get to learn? This Way Ahead gave me the opportunity to take the burden off my mom and pay for whatever I needed.
What did getting a first job mean to you?
It was the best thing ever, knowing I didn’t have to go to my mom for anything and not only support myself, but also her if it came to that. If she needed money for lunch, I could give her that. If my sisters needed anything, I could provide for them. If I needed anything, I could get it. And it felt amazing! I worked hard for that.
Always puts you in a good mood
Honestly, seeing people that want to learn and want to do more in the company. People that want to be more engaged — that’s what does it for me.
‘Started from the Bottom’ by Drake.
Something people don’t know about you
Running back Tim Hightower from the Cardinals, now on the 49ers, is my cousin.
Why Gap Inc.? Why Old Navy?
I’ve shopped around, and none of the stores have the level of engagement we stress here. We make it personal. We allow personality in our work. Coming into the store and feeling important, like all eyes are on you, and you’re the star — that feels amazing!