IRONTON, OHIO (WOWK)- Katrina Keith has been the mayor of Ironton for almost four years now, and she has lived in the area for just about her entire life.
“I just love the southern charm. I love the safe environment, and I love the people that live here,” said Keith.
However, Ironton’s poverty rate of 20.7 percent is nearly seven points higher than the state average of 13.9 percent, and the number of people in the area with a high school or college degree over the age of 25 is below the state rate, according to the U.S Census Bureau.
“When you are in an economically depressed area I think fear sets in, and they don’t think they are good enough or smart enough to go on,” said Keith.
However, McDonald’s is looking to step in to help fill the void.
The restaurant chain’s Archways to Opportunity program offers tuition assistance for employees looking to obtain a college degree, and they offer an online program for crew members and their families looking to receive a high school diploma.
“When you think about our area not a lot of people have the opportunity to go to school, so McDonald’s is able to provide that opportunity through their program,” said Keith.
Under the program crew members who work a minimum of 15 hours a week are eligible for $2,500 annually and managers have access to $3,000.
“It is a way for us to recruit people. It’s great benefits to speak about whenever we are hiring people, and it’s a great way for us to retain our employees,” said Melissa Bacon, director of operations for Lawrence County McDonald’s.
Bacon said the program has been around for a few years now, but nobody seems to know about it in the Ironton area.
“Now thankfully to the mayor, we are able to access these different platforms to where we can talk about it,” said Bacon.
Keith knows the program won’t fix the cities problems completely when it comes to poverty and educations, but it is start.
Bacon said employees have to work for 90 days before they become eligible for the program, but there is some wriggle room for special circumstances.
She also said about 15 people are currently taking part in the program in the Lawrence County area.