Yesterday, a special graduation ceremony was held at the McDonald’s on Addison Road in Capitol Heights, Maryland. The celebration was for Yenis Blanco, a Prince George’s County McDonald’s manager, who is the first recipient of a high school diploma in the Washington, D.C. area through McDonald’s Archways to Opportunity program. She is also one of the first 100 Archways to Opportunity high school graduates in the country.
Yenis’s family, her co-workers and representatives from the offices of local elected officials attended the event to celebrate her graduation. Although the high school diploma program is scheduled to take 18 months to complete, Yenis sped through it in only seven. The owner of the Addison Road McDonald’s, local franchisee Ron Gantt, praised Yenis for her hard work and determination as he presented her with her diploma.
Yenis’s graduation celebration
How Archways to Opportunity helps
In 2015, McDonald’s created Archways to Opportunity, a comprehensive educational assistance strategy with multiple programs that give crew members and managers who work at any U.S. McDonald’s restaurant an opportunity to grow and learn. Yenis graduated from English Under the Arches as well as the Archways to Opportunity high school degree program, which allows employees to earn a high school diploma online at no cost.
At only 21 years old, Yenis has already accomplished a lot. She immigrated to the United States from El Salvador six years ago and worked hard to support her family. Yenis joined McDonald’s five years ago and quickly impressed her supervisors. She is now a Manager at the Addison Road location. Yenis loved school in El Salvador, but, as a non-native English speaker, she thought it would be impossible to obtain her high school diploma in the U.S. Then, she heard about the Archways to Opportunity program.
Before tackling the high school degree program, Yenis enrolled in English Under the Arches to hone her English speaking and writing skills. Her preparation paid off, because Yenis graduated with a high school diploma in record time.
Next, Yenis hopes to complete the Archways to Opportunity college degree program and to pursue a career in criminal justice. Chief of Police of the Capitol Heights Police Department Anthony Ayers was also there on Wednesday to see Yenis graduate. He was moved by her poise and perseverance. After the ceremony, Chief Ayers offered Yenis an internship in his department to help her reach her goal of becoming a police officer.
McDonald’s restaurant owner Ron Gantt will be sad to see Yenis go, but he couldn’t be happier to see her succeed. “If [Archways to Opportunity graduates] stay with McDonald’s, that’s great for us. But, if they move on to become great citizens and great employees in other fields, then that’s great, too,” he said.