• Tuition Program for At-Risk Youth Employees at MacDonald’s is an Inspiration for Us All

    Spring is here and I am glad to be enjoying it here in Pacific Grove. All too recently a nice story arrived on my desk from my editor. It was affixed to a brick with a rubber band, before it was subtly thrown across the newsroom and hit me on my left shoulder.

    Community Health Services in Monterey has a program named Safe Passage. This program is set up to help young, under-privileged people come off the streets or the often awful circumstances they inhabit. Simply put, when an individual enters the program, they are nurtured and counseled in a manner that is kind and productive. I can only imagine that many times the starting point for these remarkable youth has left them with little to show other than dread and despair. 

    What attracted me to this story is that I am always delighted to hear when the human spirit prevails over the human condition. What follows is my privilege to share.

    Once entered in the Safe Passage program the recipients live in a small, wonderfully kept, unremarkable home on Pearl St. that surely must seem like a mansion to some of them. This is where Ali Garcia runs the program. This writer’s estimation is that Mr. Garcia is an extraordinary example of the human spirit prevailing. Thus he became motivated to dedicate his efforts to help others. This he does. Ali starts his work with new entrants at the beginning. Alas, many are light on life skills. I’ll guess subjects like personal hygiene and manners come into vogue quickly as so many other skills are both learned and observed. Ali and the program he administers is remarkably successful. Good program, well implemented. How he got there is as remarkable as the program itself.

    One day, Ali had just a moment of time and thought he’d treat himself to a dollar menu sundae just down the street at the local McDonald’s. While there he saw a table with a sign that read something like “National Hiring Day.”  There was a man sitting at the empty table – James Fernandez. Mr. Fernandez is the manager of the whole place. Ali went and got his dollar menu sundae and went and sat at the table with James.

    It turns out that James Fernandez is remarkable too. What are the odds? Together with the help of Community Human Services’ Safe Passage and the direct supervision of James Fernandez, and with complete support from McDonald’s franchise owners Suzette and Landon Hoffman, they have entered more than a few of these young people into a scholarship program that McDonald’s offers employees: After only 60 days of employment and working a minimum of only 15 hours a week; any crew member may receive $750 in college tuition. This kind of money can go a long way at Monterey Peninsula College or Hartnell. 

    So with the direct participation of Ali and James, at-risk and under-privileged youth have been made safe and productive by Safe place’s emphasis on work and school and It’s working. 

    I asked James about his life to see if I could glean what brought him to his work with these youths. James’s responded, “I’ve had a good life. Not particularly hard, I suppose. I saw the need, that’s all. I saw I could help.

    How many has he helped? James says it doesn’t matter. “If you help one person, it’s all worth it.”

    There are now young happy functioning people working and enjoying college, in the nurturing safety of our Peninsula’s community. 

    The Hoffmans are very proud of their combined community service with CMS Safe Place, McDonald’s, James, and of course Ali.

    In closing, it’s already 2 o’clock on Thursday and I’ve got to go.  I hope to write more about this soon. Wouldn’t it be great if we could figure out a way to enable these precious young people to enjoy college all year? If just a few out there in newspaper reader land would match the McDonald’s scholarship, it could happen. It’s small group of people in the program.

    Please share your thoughts with me personally – websterslate@cedarstreettimes.com. – I would love to help this outfit. This is how I can.

    posted to Cedar Street Times on April 7, 2018

    Topics: Front PG News, The Gray Eminence

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