Actor and philanthropist kicks off Taco Bell Foundation for Teens’ new employee Career Online High School program with a message for today’s teens and adults: it’s never too late to commit to education

IRVINE, Calif., Sept. 16, 2013 — More than 25 years after dropping out of high school, Mark Wahlberg today joined the graduating class of 2013. Celebrating his accomplishment with members of the Taco Bell Foundation for Teens and Taco Bell teams in Irvine, Calif., Wahlberg reminded America’s teens and adults that it is never too late to make a commitment to education.


(See related story in the Huffington Post)

“The greatest regret in my life is quitting school. I was lucky, but a lot of my friends who did the same ended up incarcerated or dead,” said Wahlberg. “Now I have a different perspective: that what’s cool in life is being a good person, and doing the right thing. I take any opportunity I can to speak to teens and encourage them, first and foremost, to graduate high school. And today, I’m proud to say I’m leading by example by joining the Class of 2013.”

The actor, philanthropist and Taco Bell® Foundation for Teens™ ambassador, who dropped out of high school in the ninth grade, earned his high school diploma through an online program based in his home state of Massachusetts.

Recognizing the importance of such online programs, and with a commitment to providing its employees with continued learning opportunities, the Taco Bell Foundation for Teens simultaneously announced a pilot partnership with Cengage Learning’s ed2go and Smart Horizons, in support of their “Commitment to Action” with the Clinton Global Initiative, to create a scholarship program that will bring educational resources to employees of Taco Bell.

An inaugural partner in the pilot program, Taco Bell through its Foundation will fund high school completion and career certificates to support the educational and professional development of Taco Bell Team Members.

“Mark Wahlberg reminds us all that it is never too late to go back to school and earn your diploma,” said Taco Bell® PresidentBrian Niccol, who also serves as chairman of the Taco Bell Foundation for Teens. “He is an inspiration to the Taco Bell leadership team to commit ourselves to doing everything we can to empower youth to do the same – starting with our own Team Members. We look forward to a successful pilot and hope that, in the future, we can further expand this program so that even more Team Members can use these educational and life skills not only at Taco Bell®, but also wherever they choose to work.”

Wahlberg joined the Taco Bell® Foundation for Teens™ and Taco Bell in support of the pilot program, presenting scholarships to select Taco Bell employees at its Irvine, Calif. headquarters. A long-time partner of the Taco Bell Foundation for Teens, Wahlberg and his Mark Wahlberg Youth Foundation also met with Taco Bell leadership to discuss ways to continue inspiring and enabling youth across America to graduate.

“It was the teens that I’ve been working with through the Taco Bell Foundation for Teens that inspired me to graduate,” said Wahlberg. “Nothing was more encouraging than seeing their determination to get a diploma, often despite tough circumstances. Now it’s my chance to be a role model for my kids and teens across the country, to inspire them to stick with it and to graduate.”

Wahlberg also cited Michael Allen as a source of inspiration for his educational success. Allen currently serves as Randolph High School principal in Massachusetts and is a long-time mentor to Wahlberg.

After learning of Wahlberg’s online high school program completion, Allen stated, “Mark’s performance while working on his diploma as well as his commitment to help others was not only impressive, it was an inspiring testament to what hard work and dedication can achieve.”