By Stacy M. Brown (NNPA Newswire Contributor)
Ten years ago, Cameo Faust, a single mother of seven, was working at an Atlanta-area McDonald’s, struggling to make ends meet and highly motivated to make a better life for herself and her family.
Now, she’s the general manager, who is responsible for the operation of the restaurant and in charge of helping to build a team of employees to help the business flourish.
Faust gave birth to her first child when she was 14. Faust’s mother, Shirley Randolph, had given birth to her first child at the age of 12.
“By the time I was 15, I had twins, plus the baby. At 17, I had four kids, and then I had five by the time I was 18 and, finally, by 26, I had seven,” she said, unapologetically, naming them in range from the oldest to the youngest – Jasmine, Markiesha, Marcus, DeMarcus, Sparticus, Sparkle and Joshua.
Now, Faust, at 36 years-old, realizes that with each pregnancy, she was desperately trying to fill a void created by the loveless, tumultuous relationship that she had with her own mother.
“My mother would always be fussing at me telling me not to wear a head rag or not to do this or to do that…[she was] always so mean and I didn’t want to listen to her. I’m having these kids to have someone to love because nobody ever loved me,” Faust said.
Although she continued in a relationship with the father of her children, Faust knew that a life of struggle — wasn’t ideal. At the time, Faust didn’t even have a high school diploma.
The proverbial light bulb in her head switched on when the town’s water company turned off her water, Faust said.
“I was dating my children’s father and one day the water got cut off and I asked him what were we going to do,” she said. “He looked at me, told me that he didn’t know what I was going to do, but that he was leaving.”
Stunned, the unemployed Faust showed him the door.
“I just got tired,” she said. “I told him that he could go.”
Now, with five children, no money, no job, no high school diploma, and a paltry $367-a-month welfare check, Faust began pounding the pavement.
“I kept walking up and down the street for about three days. There were a lot of fast food restaurants and I would walk up and down every day asking for a job,” she said.
“I stopped in at McDonald’s near Riverdale Road and asked if I could apply for a job. [The supervisor] told me to come back the next day,” Faust said. “I explained that it took me an hour to walk here, but he said, ‘I should come back.’ I kept coming back and he’d tell me to come back again and again. I was tired, but finally I was hired as a crew person.”
At first, the job only added to Faust’s problems.
She had five children at home with the oldest just 10 years-old.
“I had my oldest watch the other children even though I also had an infant and a toddler in the house,” Faust said. “I know it was dangerous, but I couldn’t allow my kids’ father to come back. I’d walk back and check on them when I could and I made sure that they had three meals every day.”
She said, adding that a neighbor did, from time to time, peak in on the children to ensure that all was well.
“It was all about perseverance and I didn’t want to be on welfare anymore, so I did what I had to do,” Faust said.
Faust worked hard and began to earn promotions at the restaurant.
Ironically, she said that she was inspired by Randolph who had given her such a difficult time.
“My mother pushed me to be better than her, that’s why she was so hard on me,” said Faust. “She loved me. She’s really my role model.”
Faust is now enrolled in school and she’s taking courses at McDonald’s famed Hamburger University, recognized by the American Council on Education as the only academically accredited restaurant in the country.
Through a company program, employees can transfer as many as 46 hours toward a bachelor’s degree, certificate program, or associate’s degree.
Hamburger University first opened in 1961 and more than 330,000 students have taken courses there including franchise general managers like Faust whose courses include shift management, introduction to management and guest services.
In a statement about the university, Rob Lauber, McDonald’s chief learning officer, said that an educated workforce has huge value for the business.
“We estimate between 20 and 30 percent of our restaurant managers haven’t finished high school and Hamburger University focuses more on leadership development, business growth, and operations procedures, with a special emphasis on service, quality, and cleanliness to help prepare students for managerial positions in the restaurant industry,” said Lauber.
John Hurt, the McDonald’s franchise owner who employs Faust, said that she has done a great job.
“This is one area of being an owner that really gives you satisfaction,” said Hurt. “Knowing you’re helping others and this one particular person, who was looking for a way out and knowing that we could provide that opportunity is special. I am really thrilled to have Cameo with me.”
Hurt said that Faust manages about 55 employees, managers report to her, and that he’s pleased with the progress that she’s made over the years.
Benjamin F. Chavis, Jr., the president and CEO of the National Newspaper Publishers Association, said that the NNPA salutes McDonald’s for offering career advancement opportunities for their employees.
“The success story of Cameo Faust in Georgia serves as an inspiring national example that millions of young single mothers should view as proof that social challenges can be overcome,” said Chavis. “Cameo’s career journey personifies self-empowerment with grace and elegance.”
Faust said that she aspires to become an entrepreneur and a motivational speaker.
Three of Faust children have graduated high school and one of her daughters attends Clark University, a historically Black college in Atlanta.
“I love McDonald’s and all that they’ve done for me,” said Faust. “I still want to let God take me higher.”