McDonald’s Restaurant Employee Demonstrates Commitment to Education
At McDonald’s, Yenis Blanco learned the meaning of “commitment.” Literally. At age 15, Blanco came to the United States from El Salvador in hopes of finding opportunities in work and education she didn’t have back home. At the time, she knew a few basic English phrases, like “good morning,” “good afternoon,” and “thank you.” When she began working at a McDonald’s restaurant at age 17, she began learning English, both informally by learning new words and phrases on the job daily, as she worked her way up from the kitchen to the cash register, and formally through the English Under the Arches program. Thanks to her English Under the Arches teacher, Blanco heard about another program available through McDonald’s called Career Online High School. At no cost to her, she could earn her high school diploma.
“I told my teacher, I’m not really good with my English right now, but I’m really, really interested in getting my high school diploma,” Blanco recalls. Her teacher explained that she would need to be truly committed if she wanted to earn her diploma. It was the first time Blanco had ever heard the word. “At that time, I didn’t understand what a commitment was. I didn’t understand that word,” says Blanco. So she learned the definition and quickly decided she could, indeed, be committed.
She was eager to earn her diploma for a number of reasons. For one, she had dropped out of high school because she needed to work, and had struggled to attend classes all day while also holding a job. Career Online High School, however, offered her the chance to complete school online at her own pace and her local Owner/Operator worked with her on a flexible schedule that allowed her to have time to work and study. This kind of opportunity was a part of the American Dream that she was pursuing. “I think education is the main branch of life,” she says. “With education, you can do anything. You can reach any goal.”
She completed the program and earned her diploma in just over seven months, which is about half the time that it takes many students to graduate. “I’m really committed when I want to do something,” says Blanco, embracing the new word. “I’m not patient.” Her education gave her more confidence in her job at McDonald’s. Early on, she avoided answering the phone or making phone calls because she was afraid she wouldn’t understand the other person on the line. As she learned English, that fear vanished, and she advanced to department manager and then shift leader.
In time, she was also offered a new opportunity by Owner/Operator Luis Gavignano to become a training manager. She accepted the new job, and now, at age 23, she oversees training programs at 15 restaurants in Maryland, Washington, DC and Virginia. Through that position, she has a platform during orientation and trainings to tell employees about the educational programs McDonald’s supports, and how those programs have helped her. “I’m really happy with the company and happy with the program,” she says. “What I can say to everybody is everything I have accomplished until now is because of McDonald’s and Archways to Opportunity.”
And she’s still committed to her own betterment through education. Blanco recently enrolled in Southern New Hampshire University, where she’s taking online business courses with the help of Archways to Opportunity. It’s her newest commitment. By now, she has a deep appreciation of the word. “Commitment is something you have to work on if you want to accomplish something that is for you. You have to be committed to your own goals. You have to be committed to your own dream. And you have to do what you are supposed to do in spite of anything. That’s commitment,” she says.
The Archways to Opportunity program provides eligible employees at participating U.S. restaurants an opportunity to earn a high school diploma, receive upfront college tuition assistance, access free education/ career advising services and learn English as a second language. Since 2015, the education program has increased access to education for over 38,500 people and awarded over 58 million in high school and college tuition assistance. To learn more about the Archways to Opportunity program, please visit ArchwaysToOpportunity.com.