April 29, 2021

First-generation American paves his own path to high school graduation

Tenacity and Academic Coach support saw this student through to earning his diploma

For 43-year-old Marvin Sandoval, the journey to earning his high school diploma started in his home country of Guatemala. When he left home to follow in the footsteps of his older brothers and immigrate to the United States, Marvin was just 17—and had not been to school in a number of years. "In Guatemala, education is only free through middle school,” Marvin says. “I am the youngest of nine sons; my family did not have money to pay for my studies. "Soon after arriving in the U.S., Marvin found employment with McDonald’s—a company he’s proud to still work for more than 25 years later.

Education that works for the full-time employee

During that time, completing his high school education was never far from Marvin’s mind. Yet, many of the avenues he explored felt more like dead ends. “I pursued various adult education opportunities, including the GED, but I struggled to complete them while working. "Through a McDonald’s restaurant employee benefit, Marvin enrolled in Career Online High School (COHS). “COHS was the perfect solution,” he says. “The program allowed me to juggle work and family—and complete assignments at my own pace.”

Finding success through academic support

Flexibility is just one of the aspects of COHS that helped Marvin achieve his academic goals. He also credits both his manager at McDonald’s and his COHS Academic Coach with helping him stay motivated throughout his program. "My COHS coach was so supportive, always sending me messages of encouragement,” he says. “She would tell me: ‘Even though it feels like no one is watching, I am here.’ Those messages kept the fire in me. ”Completing his degree wasn’t without its challenges. Marvin often felt like he was starting his education from scratch, having no school records or transfer credits to build upon. He recalls the many nights he’d fall asleep with his computer on his chest, exhausted from working but eager to stay on the path to graduation. He persevered—and his hard work paid off. He completed all 18 credits, four months ahead of schedule. “Looking back, I know my coach’s support made all the difference.”

A stepping stone to what comes next

Today, not only is Marvin a valued area supervisor for five McDonald’s restaurants, but he’s also a proud graduate of the COHS program. “Earning my high school diploma has given me a sense of purpose and accomplishment. Next, I plan to continue my education with a focus on criminal justice. ” And as for Marvin’s family? “My 83-year-old mother is my inspiration—she learned to read at the age of 63,” he shares. “She’s so proud to hang my graduation photo on her wall for everyone to see.”