Last year, McDonald's launched the Black & Positively Golden movement to uplift Black communities through empowerment, education and entrepreneurship. A year later, the initiative has created a $500,000 scholarship fund for students attending historically Black colleges and universities.
The company announced its latest initiative on Thursday, saying the Black & Positively Golden scholarship is facilitated by the Thurgood Marshall College Fund (TMCF) and specifically created to help students continue their education in the fall amid the coronavirus pandemic. Marissa Fisher, who owns four McDonald's restaurants in southeast Louisiana, said the scholarship is key because HBCU students will be most impacted by COVID-19.
"As a brand with roots that run deep in communities, McDonald's has been part of these students' lives while growing up and is the place where many received their first jobs," Fisher said. "We want to help ease some of the stress caused by this pandemic as they plan to return to school."
According to the TMCF, up to 90% percent of students in some HBCU institutions come from low-income backgrounds. TMCF CEO and President Harry L. Williams said HBCU students are not only dealing with a pandemic but Black inequality as well.
"Black students, with allies from across the globe, are calling for companies to do more than issue statements and run ads," Williams said. "That's why TMCF is excited to further our commitment with McDonald's to help keep more Black students in college."
McDonald's has also partnered with the ESSENCE Girls United HBCU initiative to organize the 2020 ESSENCE Festival of Culture: Unstoppable Virtual Experience. The program will kick off this fall and continue for multiple weeks, hosting virtual events for student entrepreneurs. Select students will also have a chance to get exclusive mentorship opportunities through the program.
Fisher, who previously worked as a crew member in her parents' McDonald's restaurants, said: "McDonald's is more than burgers and fries."
"I'm proud to be part of a global brand that is stepping up to help America's Black future leaders continue their education during such a challenging time," she said.
With the Black Lives Matter movement taking even more precedence in recent weeks following the death of George Floyd, McDonald's sees an urgent need for its latest initiative.
"It highlights all things positive and focuses on stories of truth, power and pride," the company stated. "The campaign movement is a natural extension of the brand's longstanding commitment to the African-American consumer."
Applications for the Black & Positively Golden scholarship are available from now through Aug. 3 on the TMCF website.
In a recent interview with CNBC, McDonald’s CEO Chris Kempczinski said "McDonald’s has created more millionaires within the Black community than probably any other corporation on the planet, but there’s still work to do.”
Kempczinski said the company is also striving to recruit more diverse franchisees and employees.
“I think, for us, diversity is something that has to touch every single aspect of the business,” Kempczinski told CNBC. “We’ve had a lot of conversations about that in the last couple months with the entire McDonald’s system, and it was really powerful to just hear how committed everyone is to making sure that we stand out in that, and, certainly, that starts with me.”