McDonald's Helps 63 Year Old Get High School Diploma

Almost 50 years after Bonita Guesman would have earned her high school diploma, she finally has it, thanks to her determination and her employer's program to help workers pursue higher education.

When Bonita Guesman showed up for work at McDonald's today, she certainly didn't expect a celebration to greet her. That is just what she found though, a surprise ceremony to mark her graduation from high school at age 63. She just became the oldest U.S. McDonald's restaurant employee to graduate high school through the company's program to help employees further their education.

Sparkt was there to catch the magic moment at the West Liberty Avenue store in Pittsburgh, PA:

Bonita wasn’t able to finish high school because of family circumstances. When she was 12 years old her father died. She dropped out of high school her junior year to work as a waitress full-time to help support her family.

Nearly 50 years later, Bonita, decked out in a green cap and gown and clutching a large bouquet of flowers, tearfully accepted her diploma before a gathering of family, friends and co-workers.

"Thank you everyone. You guys are awesome!" - Bonita Guesman, 63 year old H.S. graduate

Bonita earned her diploma with help from McDonald's Archways to Opportunities program and Career Online High School. Now Bonita plans to pursue her college degree with help from McDonald's.

"You're such a wonderful example of a woman who is leading the way and doing amazing things," said Angele Busch, Brand Reputation Manager from the McDonald's Corporation. District Human Resources Manager Janice Zvaleny agreed saying, "She's really a true testament to women."

"She has shown us it's never too late to accomplish your goals." Janice Zvaleny, Human Resources Manager, McDonald's

Store franchise owner-operator Twila Mezan and her daughter Kara Mezan came up with the idea to surprise Bonita. "I'm so excited to say I'm a part of this for her," Twila Mezan said. In collaboration with the company, the Mezans chose today because it's International Women's Day. You may remember Twila was the franchisee who gave free meals to Transportation Safety Administration workers during the federal government shutdown earlier this year. She says they love to give back.

McDonald’s and its Owner/Operators created the Archways to Opportunity program in 2015 to remove barriers to education for their employees. Archways features multiple programs for everything from improving English language skills to earning a high school diploma and even college tuition assistance. So far 111 Pennsylvanians have been able to pursue their high school diplomas and the financial burden of pursuing higher education has been eased for 1,339 employees through the program.

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