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From a horse kiss to inspiration beneath the famous Golden Arches

It’s fantastic to find some moment in time spontaneously, and this picture of a small boy being kissed by a horse was more than special.  I can’t remember who sent it to me but it came via Facebook recently – the photographer did not take credit.

The love of a four legged animal for a small child tells a story all of its own – the child excitedly giggling over the advance was caught right at the peak of the slap of a tongue.

Another find that stopped me cold this week was a predawn breakfast meeting at Salida’s McDonald’s Restaurant at the Pelandale off ramp on southbound Highway 99 where I was attending a Rotary Club meeting that was off site from their usual Holiday Inn Express haunt.

While a member of Ripon’s Rotary Club, I often make it to the Salida breakfast simply because of the human fabric of that fantastic group of people that have become like another family.  It was beyond my comprehension why Club President John Freeland would have a meeting at McDonald’s,  let alone asking a restaurant employee to be the program for the morning.

It was well worth my time to hear McDonald’s supervisor and area coordinator Minerva Saenz talk about  the “Golden Arches Student Tutoring Program” that she started at the restaurant with the blessing of the owner, Dennis Grasspointer,  who operates stores from Modesto to Turlock.

Saenz landed her job at the Salida restaurant while she was still in school working her way through college like so many of the other fast food staffers have done over the years.  Eventually she would become manager of that eatery as her family grew over the years.  Minerva said that she, like most working mothers, had to juggle her time between work and those most important home responsibilities.

Home life became stressed when her children needed help with their homework as she was getting dinner ready to put on the table.  Not being familiar with all their math assignments, she began to consider the possibility of hiring a tutor to help her daughters.  Her imagination went a step further and launched a tutoring program at her restaurant.   She had asked the owner if she could use the college student employees to serve as onsite tutors – not only for her children but for those of customers that needed help.

He agreed and she put out small signs on the counter and by the door offering free after school tutoring sessions to families in need of help for their children at all grade levels.  The kids responded with the blessings of their parents and they met at McDonald’s every Tuesday and Wednesday from 4 to 6 p.m.  It was never clear how many students they would have show up, but there were always enough tutors working at the restaurant between those hours to help make a difference in those many young lives, wiping away the frustrations of misunderstood homework.

Saenz found the educational program so effective that it eventually grew to some 20 students – mostly fourth to eighth graders – that was getting too big for one restaurant location.  She coaxed the effort into spreading to other McDonald’s asking for help from the Dale and Tully Road stores as well as one on Carpenter Road.

She has since become a McDonald’s supervisor,  acting as an area coordinator,  watching the McDonald’s tutoring efforts expand even more into restaurants in Ceres on Whitmore and to the Country Side Drive restaurant in Turlock.  The Golden Arches are making a difference in the education of their young students throughout the chain of sister restaurants owned by Dennis Grasspointer and the dream from a young hire named Minerva Saenz who first signed on as a young student making her mark on countless children in the region as she worked her way up under the glow of the Golden Arches. 

It was pointed out that the “cool thing” about being tutored at McDonalds, it has not been a turnoff from other kids who would tease their classmates about going to a tutor after school – they were just headed for the Golden Arches where they were getting much more than just a Big Mac.