WHITMAN — Amanda Peterson says becoming a teenaged mom forced her to “grow up and become an adult very quickly,” as it forced her to leave high school to raise her kids.
The Whitman resident does not regret doing so, save for the sacrifice of her incomplete education — a temporary one, as it turned out.
“I am not ashamed or unhappy with my decision to have my children young — they are the most beautiful part of my life,” she said. “But, I put my life on hold for the sake of my babies. I left high school to raise them and support them.”
As she celebrated Mother’s Day with her children, enjoying the homemade gifts they gave her as they had breakfast in bed together, she reflected on how far she has come since making that difficult decision.
To pay the bills at 19, she looked to a job in the fast-food industry, working the front counter at McDonald’s. She was a knowledge sponge, soaking up whatever information she could to move forward in her career and support herself and her daughter. Fast-forward 16 years, and she’s a department manager, with the career she had envisioned as a teen.
So, how did she translate asking customers the expected phrase “would you like fries with that?” to a management career in a business some dismiss as “flipping burgers?”
Turns out her employer could, and did help.
Peterson obtained her GED through the McDonald’s Archways for Opportunity program.
“I made the tough decision of putting my education on hold to raise my children,” she said. “I always wanted to go back to finish what I started, and do what I thought was best for my children. McDonald’s presented me with the opportunity and I jumped at it.”
Getting her GED had always been a goal she wanted to accomplish.
“I always felt like a piece of me was missing,” she said. “Now that I graduated, I feel like I found that piece and I am whole again.”
She enrolled in Archways for Opportunity in May 2019 and graduated in June 2020, working trough the pandemic as she and her family did their best to stay safe and healthy. The company continued to support Peterson by allowing her to study during breaks while offering her a flexible schedule so she could attend classes, take tests, work, and take care of her family.
“While it was not easy, McDonald’s helped me get it done,” she said.
That her employer supported her in her taking care of her family gave her a feeling of family on its own. Her General Manager Roberta Pratt also encouraged her to take part in the Archways for Opportunity program.
“They are some of my biggest cheerleaders. Everyone was so excited to find out I was pregnant each time,” Peterson said. “Work-life balance and supporting families is one of the best parts of management here. I am so appreciative of the time I am given to bond with my baby and heal after giving birth last month to my third child.”
Pratt seems to be, indeed, a cheerleader for her employee.
“Amanda’s goal has always been to show her children they can do anything they set their mind to,” she said. “It was her dream to finish high school, and I am so amazed by how hard she worked every day to achieve this goal for her family and to further her career. I am so proud of her!”
Richard Hogan, the owner/operator of the North Weymouth McDonald’s where Peterson works called her an incredible role model for the program and the organization.
“We are grateful to have Amanda as one of our teammates. She’s hardworking, passionate and embodies the best of our brand values,” Hogan said. “The sky is the limit for her.”
While she doesn’t have an actual vision board for her future, Peterson said she is incredibly happy with where she’s at in her personal and professional life. But she does plan to one day own a McDonald’s restaurant.
“I am putting that out into the universe,” she said. “I set my mind to something and I achieve my goals. Down the line, it will happen.”
In the meantime, her kids are probably happy they can enjoy their favorite menu option — chicken McNuggets and cheeseburger Happy Meals. But, then, when mom is happy in her life, isn’t every meal a happy one?