June 22, 2021

How a 23 year old working mom rediscovered the path to graduation through Career Online High School and McDonald's

New graduate is already on her way to college in the fall, thanks to the jump-start her employer’s education benefits program gave her.

Growing up in a single parent home in Arkansas, Monthodsha Burl found grade school to be an outlet for her. But, when she started high school, she also started to struggle with her coursework—and she didn’t have anyone at home to turn to for support. In her senior year of high school, Monthodsha dropped out. Now, 23-year-old Monthodsha wants a better future for her 3-year-old son. “When my son’s father passed away a year ago, I knew I would need to complete my high school education in order to get a higher paying job—and create a better life for my son,” she said.

Getting back on track with help from her employer

At work, she spotted a flyer promoting the opportunity to earn her diploma for free through Career Online High School (COHS). McDonald’s offers COHS to restaurant employees as part of the Archways to Opportunity educational benefits program. After Monthodsha considered the GED and other online high school options, she knew COHS would be the right fit for her. “COHS immediately felt like a better fit to earn my high school diploma. It’s more like real life—and it meets students where they already are,” she said. “They accepted transfer credits from my other school, so I was able to start my program with credits already under my belt. "And with those credits, Monthodsha earned her diploma—the steppingstone she needed to be accepted at the University of Arkansas Community College at Morrilton. She’ll pursue an associate degree starting in the fall.

Finding support when and where she needed it

Monthodsha credits her success to working with an Academic Coach and having access to tools that helped her progress in her coursework. Whether it was texts and emails from her Coach or online tutorials, she was never without support. "Having an Academic Coach is better than having a counselor,” she said. “My Coach was very hands-on and always available to answer my questions—whether they were about coursework, going to college, or just advice about life. "She also appreciated the ability to work at her own pace. “At first, I was overwhelmed, but as long as you take notes, you’ll be fine. And if you fail a test, you’ll learn why—so you can understand better for the next time."

Reaching for her goals—and inspiring others along the way

"If I can do it, you can do it” is more than just Monthodsha’s parting advice. She shared that a friend of hers who works at another McDonald’s restaurant is now planning to apply to the COHS program after seeing Monthodsha’s success. "I told her, in addition to a diploma, you also earn a career certificate. I am so proud of that accomplishment. It makes me official,” she beamed.