Taco Bell and Kinexus have signed on as the first two partners in ed2go/Smart Horizons Career Online Education’s (SHCOE) Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) Commitment to Action to reengage youth and young adults in the educational system. The CGI Commitment includes a scholarship agreement to offer fully accredited high school diplomas and career certificates to current and future 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 individuals 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 business, workforce, and community development non-profit promoting economic vitality in southwest Michigan, will offer the Career Online High School scholarship program to members of the communities it serves through the Bridge Academy. Kinexus established the Bridge Academy in 2010 to provide career-focused education opportunities for residents between the ages of 16 and 24. Located in Benton Harbor—one of Michigan’s poorest cities—the training center focuses on teaching the skills local businesses need so trainees can find and maintain 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 prepare workers to succeed in the industries that drive our local economy.”

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: http://www.careeronlinehs.org/.

For more information or to read the CGI Commitment to Action, please visit:http://www.clintonglobalinitiative.org/commitments/commitments_search.asp?id=830506.

About the Clinton Global Initiative

Established in 2005 by President Bill Clinton, the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI), an initiative of Bill, Hillary & Chelsea Clinton Foundation, convenes global leaders to create and implement innovative solutions to the world’s most pressing challenges. CGI Annual Meetings have brought together more than 150 heads of state, 20 Nobel Prize laureates, and hundreds of leading CEOs, heads of foundations and NGOs, major philanthropists, and members of the media. To date CGI members have made more than 2,300 commitments, which are already improving the lives of more than 400 million people in over 180 countries. When fully funded and implemented, these commitments will be valued at $73.5 billion.

CGI also convenes CGI America, a meeting focused on collaborative solutions to economic recovery in the United States, and CGI University (CGI U), which brings together undergraduate and graduate students to address pressing challenges in their community or around the world, and, this year, CGI Latin America, which will bring together Latin American leaders to identify, harness, and strengthen ways to improve the livelihoods of people in Latin America and around the world. For more information, visit clintonglobalinitiative.org and follow us on Twitter @ClintonGlobal and Facebook at facebook.com/clintonglobalinitiative.

About Cengage Learning and ed2go

Cengage Learning is a leading educational content, software and services company for the academic, professional and library markets worldwide. ed2go, part of Cengage Learning, is the largest provider of turnkey online training and education solutions serving the adult education, career, and corporate training markets. With over 2,000 colleges, universities, community based organizations and other training providers, ed2go has served more than 2.5 million students. ed2go’s ever-growing catalog of Online Courses and Career Training Programs makes it simple for students to enrich their lives or reach professional goals in a supportive and engaging environment. ed2go also can help educational institutions jump-start their online education programs or augment existing distance learning options. For more information visit www.cengage.com or www.ed2go.com.

About Taco Bell

Taco Bell Corp. (“Taco Bell”), a subsidiary of Yum! Brands, Inc., (NYSE: YUM), is the nation’s leading Mexican-inspired quick service restaurant. Taco Bell serves made to order and customizable tacos, burritos, and specialties such as the exclusive Doritos® Locos Tacos, gourmet inspired Cantina Bell® Menu and lower calorie Fresco Menu. The company encourages customers to “Live Más®,” both through its food and in ways such as its Feed the Beat® music program and charitable organization, the Taco Bell® Foundation for Teens™. Taco Bell and its more than 350 franchise organization have nearly 6,000 restaurants across the United States that proudly serve more than 36 million customers every week.

About Kinexus

Kinexus is a nonprofit organization that connects people, investments, and organizations with strategies and services that make southwest Michigan region a great place to live, work, and play. We are dedicated to creating solutions for business, workforce, and community challenges that promote economic vitality in the southwest Michigan region. For more information, go to www.Kinexus.org and follow us onTwitter@KinexusGroup and Facebook at facebook.com/KinexusGroup.