STAMFORD (WWJ) — Taco Bell and Kinexus have signed on as the first two partners in Cengage Learning/Smart Horizon Career Online Education’s (SHCOE) Clinton Global Initiative Commitment to Action to reengage employees in the educational system.

The CGI Commitment includes a scholarship agreement to offer fully accredited high school diplomas and career certificates to employees in the retail, hospitality, and food service industries via the Career Online High School.

“Whether it is in news reports or a politician’s speech, we consistently hear that there are not enough skilled workers to fill job openings throughout the country,” said Ron Stefanski, Chief Business Development Officer at ed2go. “Through programs such as the Career Online High School, we are offering workers an opportunity to complete a high school diploma and post-secondary education, providing skills and a springboard to better opportunities.”

Ed2go, the largest provider of turnkey online training and part of Cengage Learning, and SHCOE, the world’s first AdvancED/SACS accredited online school district, partnered in 2012 to provide affordable, career-based online education opportunities for the millions of adults in the United States without high school diplomas. Their partnership led to the establishment of Career Online High School, which offers students the opportunity to earn an accredited 18-credit high school diploma and credentialed career certificate in a single comprehensive online program. Career Online High School served over 2,500 students in its first year of operation.

Kinexus, a workforce development company promoting economic vitality in the southwest Michigan region, will offer the Career Online High School scholarship program to members of the communities it serves through Bridge Academy. Kinexus established Bridge Academy in 2010 to provide education opportunities for residents between the ages of 16 and 24. Located in Benton Harbor, the school focuses on teaching the skills local businesses need so students can find employment when they graduate.

“One of our biggest economic challenges in Southwest Michigan is that there are communities within the region where fewer than half the residents ages 18 to 24 have high school diplomas,” said Todd Gustafson, Kinexus’ Executive Director. “SHCOE is a proven, innovative, 21st-century solution to this problem and we see Career Online High School as an important new tool in our arsenal to educate workers so that the local economy can thrive off of the local workforce.”

Also signing a partnership agreement with SHCOE and ed2go is Taco Bell, the nation’s leading Mexican-inspired quick service restaurant, which will offer this key educational benefit to its employees, enabling them to earn high school diplomas and career certificates. Being a high school graduate is a requirement for promotion to management within Taco Bell, and also gives participants life skills they can use in any job beyond Taco Bell.

Former Taco Bell employee Deanna Boersma, a graduate of Career Online High School, said, “The program allowed me to get the education I needed to pursue the job that I always wanted and set me up for success. As a result of my degree, I was able to earn more money, get good benefits and buy a house. And if I ever want to go to college, I can do that as well. I am hopeful that the program will offer other Taco Bell employees the opportunities it has afforded me.”

SHCOE CEO and Superintendent Dr. Howard Liebman says the district plans to offer scholarships to 200–400 individuals in the initial two-year time frame, and says the program could be especially impactful within food services corporations, where new hires frequently lack high school diplomas.

“We’re very excited to sign these two companies as our initial partners,” said Dr. Liebman. “We’re proud to have joined with CGI in taking the lead in solving the challenges of re-engaging youth and adults back into the education system. Bringing in vital partners like Kinexus and Taco Bell adds significant weight to that commitment.”

For more information on Career Online High School, please visit:

For more information or to read the CGI Commitment to Action, please visit:


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