By Michael Gagne
Herald News Staff Reporter
FALL RIVER — For Dighton resident Gail Philips, 59, life got in the way of earning her high school diploma.
“I left school in the 11th grade,” she said. Philips went straight to work, married soon thereafter, started a family.
It was more than three decades ago. Philips said, “School in the late ‘70s was different. I felt like I was occupying a desk.”
But, she said last week, finishing up the diploma that she had been one year away from receiving “was always something I wanted to do — especially when my two sons graduated.”
“Life went on. I always put it aside,” Philips said. But earning her diploma always has been a goal.
And that’s where her employer, the McDonald’s restaurant at 41 William S. Canning Blvd., where she’s worked for the past eight years, stepped in. McDonald’s in 2015 unveiled its Archways to Opportunity, enabling employees the opportunity to earn their high school diplomas, at no cost to them.
Philips said as soon as she learned about it she enrolled. As part of the program, she received a laptop computer, as the coursework was online. With some help from academic coaches, 13 months later, Philips achieved her goal of becoming a high school graduate. According to the company, she is among the first group of McDonald’s employees in Greater Fall River “to reach this milestone with the help of McDonald’s.”
In July, Philips was recognized with a graduation at the restaurant where she’s worked the past eight years. Now she said she’s looking into the possibility of advancing her education, with achieving a business degree in mind.
“I’m ridiculously proud of her. What she did was self-motivated,” said restaurant manager Holly Vierra.
Now Philips is an unofficial ambassador for the program, Vierra said, explaining Philips goes into other McDonald’s restaurants in the region to tout the program and encourage others to enroll.
So far, she’s encouraged at least two other fellow employees to follow her lead, Vierra said.