Mcdonald's employee first to earn diploma in Central Fla via company program

Jessica Faraldo became the first employee in Central Florida to earn her high-school diploma through McDonald’s Archways to Opportunity program.

  • By
  • | 3:38 p.m. October 2, 2016
  • Southwest Orange
  • News
  • Share

While attending Evans High School during her 11th-grade year, Jessica Faraldo dropped out — five credits shy of earning her high school diploma.

She left because of her family’s financial circumstances at the time and immediately applied for her first job at McDonald’s. She was hired on the spot for a location in Lake Buena Vista.

“My family was having some issues, and I had to drop out and get a job to help my family out,” said Faraldo, now a supervisor for the McDonald’s Horizon West location on 7836 Winter Garden-Vineland Road. “That was the reason I got a job at McDonalds. … I was in a desperate situation, so I was like, you know what, I need a job, like, now.”

Six years later, Faraldo finally got her diploma, becoming the first McDonald’s employee in Central Florida to earn it through McDonald’s Archways to Opportunity — a program that offers employees the opportunity to improve their English skills, earn a high-school diploma or work toward a degree.


By pacing herself and bringing her laptop to work with her so she could work on assignments during her 30-minute breaks every day, Faraldo completed her required classes in six months. Once she finished the program, her store’s operations manager and supervisor surprised her in the middle of her shift with her diploma, traditional graduation attire, balloons and a cake.

“I never got to go to prom,” Faraldo said. “I never knew what it felt like to have a cap and a gown on, and then my operations manager came the other day and took a picture of me in my cap and gown. It made me feel kind of weird because of my age, since I’m 26, but at the same time, I got the chance to feel what it’s like to graduate. It wasn’t a whole, big ceremony but they still took the time to (congratulate) me for what I’d done so, you know, it made me feel good about myself.”

McDonald’s employee Jessica Faraldo received a surprised visit from her operations manager and supervisor, who congratulated her for earning her high-school diploma through the company’s online program.
McDonald’s employee Jessica Faraldo received a surprised visit from her operations manager and supervisor, who congratulated her for earning her high-school diploma through the company’s online program.

During her six-year career at McDonald’s, Faraldo always told herself she would eventually finish up her high-school education and get her diploma — as soon as she had more time. However, her mother was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in 2001, which left Faraldo with little time to pursue school.

So when she heard about the Archways to Opportunity program from her supervisor during a staff meeting, she wasted no time signing up and doing whatever she could to acquire her diploma as soon as possible.

“I just did it until I finished it every day, even if it was only for an hour,” Faraldo said of balancing work and school. “I’m proud of myself. I actually accomplished it on my own, even though I’m 26. But for me, it’s never too late to turn your life around.”


Life was a bit difficult for Faraldo’s family two decades ago. They were living in Miami Beach and owned a tourist guide business, but Hurricane Andrew stole everything in 1992. Her family moved back to its native Argentina in 1996 for two years and then moved to Orlando. Her parents, she said, are proud of her because they see that she’s moving up and making an effort to improve herself and her circumstances.

With her high-school diploma in hand, Faraldo aims to become a paramedic. She plans to enroll in Valencia College in January to complete a two-year degree. She was introduced to the career while spending time in hospitals as her mom received treatment.

“Back in 2001, my mom got pancreatic cancer, so I’ve been in and out of the hospital with her for years,” Faraldo said. “And after going to the hospital so much, I thought: This is interesting.”

She believes a paramedic career suits her perfectly because she’s developed a distaste for standing still in one place after those years of working in a fast-paced environment.

“To get where you want to be — even if you have to struggle or make some sacrifices — you just got to do it, because at the end of the day it’s going to be worth it,” Faraldo said. “And it was worth it because I got my diploma, and now I can start college and get my career and I can have the life I want to have and help my family.”


Contact Gabby Baquero at [email protected]


Related Articles