Making The Grade

Making The Grade

Students of all ages nationwide are reaping the benefits of educational programs supported by two restaurant franchisors.

For six years Taco John's International Inc. Has played an active role in the Adopt-a-School youth program, which partners business with local schools. Different schools have different needs, says Monica Miller at the Cheyenne, Wyoming-based Mexican-fast-food franchisor. "We ask our restaurant managers to sit down with the school principal and decide what the school's top priority is for the year," she says. Targeted areas of improvement range from low math scores to outdated playground equipment.

Twenty-one of Cheyenne's 31 elementary, junior high and high schools have been adopted by Taco John's locations; one in particular, an alternate school for teenage mothers and other kids with special needs, has dramatically increased its overall attendance, thanks to an incentive program called "Attendance Bucks." Those students with perfect attendance and no tardies for a week receive a $3 Taco John's gift certificate, "It's been phenomenally successful," says Miller.

School attendance was also the focus of last year's Reach for the Stars program, co-sponsored by Dr. Pepper and Sonic Industries, franchisor of Sonic Drive-in restaurants. Seventy-five schools across New Mexico, Arizona and Texas worked for three months to increase their attendance over the previous year; nine winners received a free concert by an up-and-coming country-music star. "In the end, it increased their attendance and their morale, which was a boost for the teachers," says Kathryn Vega of Oklahoma City based Sonic.

Sonic expects many more schools to participate in this year's program and hopes that by 1998, schools in each of Sonic's 26 states will be able to participate.

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This article was originally published in the March 1997 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Making The Grade.

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