How Archways to Opportunity helped a McDonald’s supervisor complete college and support her family


October 03, 2022

Meet Vanessa Jimenez, A supervisor overseeing five McDonald's in the Chicago area and an Archways to opportunity recipient.  
Jimenez was born in Michoacán, Mexico. She watched her mother raise her and her four younger brothers after their father was killed. As the oldest child, she decided it was up to her to move to the United States and get a job to help her family pursue a better life. "As the oldest one, I had to sacrifice something, and I sacrificed my studies," she says. She was 13 years old and didn't speak English at the time. 
She moved to Chicago and while living with her aunt, got a job at age 14, putting her education on hold and sending money home to her family. But Vanessa always knew the value of education and how it could eventually help her succeed in life. When she turned 18, she got a second job at McDonald's and enrolled at Harper College to take English classes to communicate with customers better.

Vanessa's path throughout college 

As her English grew stronger, she felt ready to pursue her GED. Along the way, she rose through the ranks at McDonald's: trainer, shift manager, and first assistant. In 2017, Jimenez began working for Bear Family Restaurants as a general manager, and during her time she learned about Archways to Opportunity and decided to use it to pay for college. 

In May of 2021, she earned her associate degree in business administration and was the first person in her family to earn a college degree. Her grades were stellar—she made the Dean's List and the President's List. Through the Archways to Opportunity Program, her job at McDonald's helped her pay tuition. 

During the virtual ceremony, she gave a speech, sharing a bit of her personal story. "There were a few occasions where I wanted to throw in the towel; however, my previous life struggles encouraged me to persevere by believing in myself, my skills, talents, and capability," she says. "My early life challenges provided me the foundation and determination to fulfill my education goals." 

Paving the way for her family   

Through all her hard work, Vanessa was able to pay for her family to move to the United States. At first, her mom and four brothers lived with her in her apartment. She watched each of her brothers graduate from high school. When she could afford to, she surprised her family with a house, so they could have more space. Not long after, she bought a second house as an investment property.  

In her pursuit of a better life, Jimenez had to make a lot of sacrifices, but she's proud of what she's accomplished. "I believe everything happens for a reason, and I don't regret anything," she says. And she's not done with her education yet, either. Next, she plans to pursue her bachelor's degree and maybe her master's, all with the help of Archways. She hopes that one day, her brothers will follow her lead. "I want them to know it's never too late to go back to school," she says. "If I can do it, anyone can do it."

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