McDonald’s program supports employees on educational journeys

For the last nine months, Joshua McKinney’s day has been limited to work, online classes and homework. At 27, the full-time crew trainer at the McDonald’s on Bells Ferry Road in Acworth was on a mission to earn his high school diploma.

“I dropped out of school, but now I have an 8-year-old daughter I wanted to set a good example for,” he said. “She’s not that into school.”

A few weeks ago, McKinney earned his diploma from the online Cobb Horizon High School. The flexible program allowed him to work at his own pace with an academic coach. But he also had the backing of his employer through Archways to Opportunity, a program launched in 2015.

“The idea is to provide assistance to restaurant employees so they can develop their education, and at the same time, help with recruitment and retention.” said John Palmaccio, the owner-operator of 10 McDonald’s stores in the metro area.

“Since it started, over 36,000 employees have taken advantage of it, and over $48 million has been given out to help with high school costs and college tuition. In Georgia alone, over 770 employees have taken advantage of it, and $1.5 million has been awarded,” he said.

Archways was designed to be easy to access, Palmaccio added. Anyone who works an average of 15 hours a week for 90 days is eligible. Part-timers can get up to $2,500, while full-time managers can receive $3,000 toward tuition and costs. Employees are eligible for that amount each year as long as they are still working. And the term “costs” is flexible.

“The amount can go toward earning a high school diploma, up front tuition, even English as a Second Language courses,” Palmaccio said. “A student can use it at any level.”

The program has been well received by employees and, in many cases, their parents, Palmaccio said. “It’s been a great joy talking to many parents who are happy about what McDonald’s is doing. The employees love it because, in some situations, it frees them up to work on their education. It’s hard to balance paying for your own school and having to work, and this gives them a way to balance the load while they work on developing themselves for the future.”

Some employees, including McKinney, don’t consider continuing their educations until they learn about the money that’s available to help them, Palmaccio said. McKinney got serious after learning about Archways from friends who were in it, and it turned out to be such a positive experience that he’s now looking to continue his education with a college program in video production or graphic design.

“I did not expect what they did for me,” he said. “My whole team has very much supported me through the whole thing. If it weren’t for them, I wouldn’t have had the motivation. And I’ve told my daughter: If I make it, she can make it.”


Each week we look at programs, projects and successful endeavors at area schools, from pre-K to grad school. To suggest a story, contact H.M. Cauley at or 770-744-3042.