Cengage and McDonald’s Celebrate Online High School Graduates: Susan Fenwick

Graduate holding certificate in front of McDonald's
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As we celebrate an important milestone with our partner McDonald’s – 100 employee graduates of Career Online High School – we’re profiling experiences of graduates. Here is Susan’s story.

Career Online High School Success Story: Susan Fenwick

Not many people can say they spent the better part of 30 years working for the same company, but Susan Fenwick can. At the young age of 15, Susan began working for a McDonald’s restaurant “on the crew” in Southern Oregon. Needing to work to support basic needs for herself and her siblings, Susan had to prioritize work over high school, eventually leading her to make the painful decision to drop out.

“There was not a day that went by that I did not regret that decision,” admitted Fenwick.

Susan eventually settled in Kitsap County, WA (just across the Puget Sound from Seattle), and built a successful career at McDonald’s. Over the course of 24 years, she worked her way up to McDonald’s restaurant manager and eventually area supervisor where she oversaw five McDonald’s restaurant locations. At 47, she’s now the Office Manager for her local owner-operator.

It was a fortunate move as in her office role she was among the first to learn of a new program, Career Online High School, being offered through McDonald’s Archways to Opportunity employee education program. Career Online High School would give her the chance to earn, for free, a nationally accredited high school diploma and “right her wrong.”

Difficult Admissions, But Strong Support

Only one hurdle stood in her way. Before committing to the program, Susan had to make sure she had the support of her family and supervisor—which meant admitting for the first time to her husband, children and manager that she did not have her high school diploma.

“That was hard,” she said. But everyone was “super supportive” of her decision to enroll in Career Online High School.

With that, Susan worked hard over the next 18 months to earn her high school diploma, often putting in about 8-10 hours/week, and sometimes more when her scheduled allowed. History was her biggest interest: as an adult she had a whole new perspective on past events than she did learning about them as a teenager. Math, however, was her biggest fear. The unwavering support she received along the way from her family, manager and Career Online High School academic coaches encouraged her to keep going. When she ran into a problem, they were there to help, she explained.

Graduation Was Only the Beginning

In January 2017, Susan earned her high school diploma from Career Online High School and a career certificate in Office Management. Since completing the program, her role at McDonald’s has also broadened as she is learning more about state and local employment laws and other Human Resource-related needs.

“McDonald’s has been really good to me,” Fenwick said. “Without Archways to Opportunity, I would never have completed high school, or had the opportunity to further my education.”

And Susan hasn’t slowed down either. She is now enrolled in Colorado Technical University through McDonald’s Archways to Opportunity program.  She expects to graduate in June 2018 with a bachelor’s degree in Business Administration with a concentration in Business Development.

Susan’s advice to others thinking about going to school? “Just do it. Put on the [McDonald’s] uniform and the ball is in your court.”

Read about the Cengage and McDonald’s partnership

Read Janelle’s Story