Merceades Pate earns high school diploma through McDonald&#x2019;s Archways to Opportunity program
MOSSY HEAD — It was an emotional morning at McDonald's on Friday, when 11 employees and two family members celebrated Merceades Pate and the completion of her high school graduate program. Pate received her high school diploma and a certificate in child development through McDonald’s Archways to Opportunity.
At the celebration, David Costa, owner-operator of Costa Enterprises, and other McDonald’s representatives surprised Pate with a cap and gown, flowers, a balloon, some crystal french fries and a Big Mac cake to celebrate the occasion.
“McDonald’s provided the money, but she provided the willpower,” Costa told Pate and the others gathered. “We are behind you, and I think we show you by all of us being here how proud we are of you.”
Archways to Opportunity is offered to employees of the McDonald’s Corp. nationwide to help them finish their high school education online or pursue secondary degrees with tuition assistance at participating colleges and universities. The program has been part of the McDonald’s employee benefits for five years, but this year the company has increased the tuition assistance and lowered the amount of hours employees must work per week to be eligible.
“Whenever I was trying to get my transcript, I was looking and it was telling me how much that they billed and it said $1,400 and I was like, ‘I couldn’t have paid that,’ so it’s a great opportunity,” Pate said of the program.
The 21-year-old said her 4-year-old son, and her child due in March are what motivated her to complete her high school education. Pate added that she has been working at the Mossy Head McDonald’s for four years and plans to continue in the Archways to Opportunity program to further her education.
“I actually got accepted into Northwest Florida State College,” Pate said. “I’m going to get my general (studies) right now and then eventually I want to go into cosmetology.”
The Mossy Head McDonald’s is one of 24 McDonald’s that are part of the Costa Enterprises franchises of Northwest Florida. David Costa Jr., one of five owner-operators of the franchise, said Archways to Opportunity is geared to help employees reach their potential.
“The idea is really to help our employees achieve their best desires and dreams,” Costa said. “They may want to come to McDonald’s. They may want to work here for a while ... or they may say, ‘Hey, I’d rather go and be a nurse' or 'I want to be a fireman.’ This allows them the opportunity, while they are working for us, to also help them get into the job of their dreams.”