Church’s—the Texas-born, Southern-bred brand known best for serving up hand-battered fried chicken and signature honey-butter biscuits—is celebrating the first graduating class of its Stride for Success program. Aware of the integral and powerful nature of education, the chicken giant is announcing a national program allowing company-owned restaurant employees the opportunity to “earn their learning” and finally achieve their educational goals. In collaboration with Penn Foster, the chicken brand will soon be unveiling a similar program that franchisees can elect to offer their employees.
“Stride for Success,” the brainchild of CEO Jim Hyatt and chief human resources officer Ed Brett, is yet another way that the Church’s brand contributes to education. The company-funded program works in conjunction with Penn Foster and is designed to assist crewmembers in reaching educational milestones and advancing within the company. Church’s employees, who have been unable to attain their high school diploma due to reasons such as financial burdens, now have the chance to achieve educational success with Church’s Chicken providing them the tools they need to grow both personally and professionally. With the program’s burgeoning success, Church’s is dedicating even more resources to Stride for Success.
“Our people are and always have been our strongest assets,” Hyatt says. “Laying the foundation for our employees to reach integral milestones and harness their potential will serve to both enrich their lives personally and strengthen our brand as a whole.”
One of the requirements in becoming a manager at company-owned Church’s Chicken restaurants is to hold a high school diploma. In an effort to help crewmembers achieve this goal, Church’s covers 100 percent of the cost associated with the program. Penn Foster worked to develop a comprehensive curriculum that can be accomplished online at each individual’s convenience, assisting in lessening those burdens considerably.
“We are always dedicated to supporting student success and so we are especially pleased to celebrate these graduates of the “Stride for Success” program at Church’s today,” says Frank Britt, CEO of Penn Foster. “Through this partnership, we support Church’s as the company builds a bridge to career growth for a group of people who are often left behind because they began to work before achieving their high school diploma. Now, with their diploma in hand, the doors are open to endless possibilities for them to pursue their dreams.”
This week, Church’s Chicken hosted the first three graduates of its high school diploma program, “Stride for Success,” at their corporate headquarters in Atlanta. The traditional commencement ceremony took place on March 16 and offered the graduates the opportunity to savor their success, as well as experience a behind the scenes look at the daily endeavors of the corporate team. In addition to the traditional graduation ceremony, which was complete with caps, gowns, and pomp and circumstance, the Stride for Success graduates sat in on a field operations call and Church’s monthly town hall meeting. Immediately following the awarding of diplomas, all three were treated to a sit-down lunch with Church’s executives.
The graduates themselves are dedicated Church’s employees, each having been a part of the Church’s family for several years. Brittani Seymour, currently serving as a Shift Leader, started working at a South Florida Church’s Chicken restaurant in 2009. Joann Jaso, the first to complete the curriculum, has been diligent in her position at Church’s in Raymondville, Texas, for the last five years. Her earnest resolve at work undeniably translated to her studies. “I never thought I’d have the opportunity to get my high school diploma at this stage in life. The Stride for Success program has allowed me to pursue my goal of earning my diploma, which makes me eligible for further career advancement,” Jaso says. She currently works as a training manager at her restaurant. The third graduate, Sherray Harley, is a two-year veteran at a Church’s restaurant in Atlanta. Securing her high school diploma in just under six months through the Stride for Success program, she is now enrolled as a college student at Full Sail University, where she studies audio production. Harley says she is thankful for the opportunity and hopes that her success will encourage her colleagues.
“We are extremely proud of our employees whose passion for knowledge and hunger for growth has driven them to finally reach this educational milestone,” Brett says. “It is a true honor to be able to break the barriers that have blocked their paths and to assist our graduates in their personal growth. There’s no better way to demonstrate our commitment to the Church’s family than this.”