The pandemic has been difficult for everyone, especially graduating high school seniors who were told they would have to miss milestone life events such as prom, end-of-year trips, championship games, and – most importantly – graduation. Following through on its commitment to brand values like Stepping Up and Doing the Right Thing, Church’s Chicken gave three seniors from the San Antonio area a surprise “Down Home” Drive-Thru graduation ceremony, complete with diploma presentation, a donation for their next steps in education, with cheering friends and family.

“The Class of 2020 has faced so many disappointments,” says Brian Gies, Chief Marketing Officer with Church’s. “We may not be able to make it up to each and every senior in America, but we can show those in our communities how much we care about celebrating their achievements.”

The three students selected for the surprise drive-thru graduation were chosen from G.W. Brackenridge High School in San Antonio – the city where the very first Church’s restaurant was opened in 1952. Students were selected because of their outstanding accomplishments and leadership within the senior class. Principal of G.W. Brackenridge, Yesenia Cordova, was actually a Church’s team member in her own high school days, and said the gesture by Church’s was, “one of true generosity and community spirit.” Additionally, in recognition of the Church’s Chicken – David Newman Internship Program, all three students each received a $2,000 donation for their next steps in education.

Church’s Chicken partnered with local franchisee, Ampler Chicken LLC, who own and operate over 30 restaurants in the San Antonio area to not only pull off the surprise, but co-fund the donation to each student as they advance in their education.

On Thursday, June 11, when students drove through their local Church’s at 1209 Steves Avenue, they were met with personalized messaging and signage congratulating them on their graduation, a crowd of cheering supporters, and at the drive-thru Principal Cordova gave a brief commencement speech and presented each student with an official diploma. The three seniors all showed positivity and leadership over their high school careers and include a future teacher (Jasson Zamora), a positivity film maker (Danny Nguyen), and the class president (Leticia Zuniga).

Jasson is known throughout the senior class as a hardworking, friendly, determined warrior. He spent much of his high school career fighting bravely against brain cancer – while remaining committed to his studies, and always caring about others like his mother, siblings, and fellow students more than himself. During his drive-thru ceremony, he was met with messages of encouragement from his mother, his favorite Church’s menu item – mashed potatoes, and proud wishes for his future studies at Our Lady of the Lake University where he will pursue becoming an elementary school teacher.

Danny who is an active, take-charge, senior class leader with a spirit for bringing people together, held positions as the captain of multiple academic clubs, a member of the band, a senior class officer, and a lead within the school’s Media & Film Institute. When the COVID-19 crisis hit, Danny coordinated a Positivity Videos series to help inspire, motivate, and reassure others dealing with difficult times. Danny goes to Church’s Chicken nearly every week, usually getting a family meal and saving a few extra fries for himself. This made his drive-thru graduation a truly unexpected surprise – especially when seeing his proud parents, Vietnamese immigrants, who got to experience the joy of watching the first member of their family to graduate from a U.S. high school and on his way to attend Trinity University in San Antonio.

As Leticia experienced her drive-thru graduation, she was met with the overwhelming support of her devoted mother and her three sisters. Leticia served as Senior Class President, was a member of the National Honor Society, participated in ROTC, and also found time to volunteer in her community. Because Leticia doesn’t drive, she had to be lured to her drive-thru graduation with the promise of her favorite treat – Church’s Chicken Tender Strips. Once there, however, the future Hawaii Pacific University student was cheered on by family, friends, and educators all applauding her achievements.

“A meaningful part of our down-home heritage is showing people how much Church’s cares,” adds Gies. “Our brand has historically brought people and the community together, celebrating special occasions, and simply enjoying the comfort that comes from meals prepared with love. We hope the entire Class of 2020 knows we applaud their tenacity and perseverance, and that we extend our heartfelt congratulations to all graduates!”

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