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Investing In Opportunity

June 20, 2013

By: Julio Suárez, Julio Suárez is Darden’s Director of Diversity Outreach and interim Director of Community Affairs and the Darden Foundation.

Investing In Opportunity

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Last month, Boys & Girls Clubs of America, in partnership with Darden Restaurants and Toyota, announced the new Diplomas to Degrees curriculum, or “d2D.” This program aims to provide more than 21,000 teens a year with the educational tools and resources needed to graduate from high school and pursue postsecondary education.

Why is Darden playing an active role? Fostering and creating opportunity for others is a high priority for our company. It is intrinsically linked to our culture of helping people fulfill their personal and professional dreams. That is why we are invested in empowering youth with continued guidance and support—and in turn opportunity—to further their education.

Significant opportunity gaps exist between students who receive higher education compared to those who do not. One of the clearest examples is future earnings potential by level of education.  Studies show that individuals who graduate with a bachelor’s degree will have a one-million dollar advantage in their lifetime earnings potential over their peers who graduate with a high school diploma. 

That is why we established Recipe for Success™ to support programs such Diplomas to Degrees that help create opportunity for our youth by providing the tools and opportunities they need to pursue their academic and career aspirations. Through this program, we strategically enlist our partners to reach ethnically, socioeconomically and geographically diverse youth groups.

Our partners —which include Asian & Pacific Islander American Scholarship Fund, Boys & Girls Clubs of America, College Summit, Hispanic Scholarship Fund, National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation and UNCF—are vital to understanding local needs and creating equal opportunities and access to postsecondary education for youth ages 14-18 across the country.

The stories of the type of impact these programs have on our young people are inspiring.

·       Boys & Girls Clubs of America – After implementing d2D at the Boys & Girls Club of Greater Dallas, the organization saw a significant number of younger teen members taking a more active approach in preparing for college. As a result, the club’s 8th-10th graders are more involved in preparing for their future.

·       Hispanic Scholarship Fund – HSF’s Generation First Degree, focused on closing the “degree gap” that exists between Hispanic students and their peers, has been able to achieve an 80 percent graduation rate versus the national average of 57 percent.

·       National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation, ProStart – As a partner in the Foundation’s ProStart program, that provides academic and on-the-job training focused on developing talented students into industry leaders, Darden is contributing to NRAEF’s efforts to enhance the lives of nearly 100,000 students, their educators and communities.

Providing a rich and meaningful education for our children not only supports their goals, but also supports the progress of our nation. Corporate support for this agenda is crucial to continue supporting the next generation of leaders. For us, it’s an investment that produces a high return.


Julio Suárez is the Director, Diversity Outreach, Foundation and Community Affairs for Darden Restaurants. In his position, Julio sets the strategy for Darden’s outreach opportunities and social investments in diverse communities. He builds and strengthens relationships with minority, LGBT and disability service organizations through engagement and support of programs that contribute to the well-being of these communities and connect consumers and community leaders with Darden and its operating companies.

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