Twenty six years ago, Carolina Montanico immigrated to the United States from her native homeland of Guatemala in search of a better life for her and her family. She was 19 years old and spoke very little English but needed to find a job. With her prospects limited, Carolina accepted an entry-level custodial position at a McDonald’s restaurant in Tarrytown, NY where she worked the late shift.
“I would smile, clean the floors and tables, and help the customers if I could, and that was all I could do when I first started,” remembered Carolina. “Being at McDonald’s helped me learn the language, get to know how to communicate and gave me confidence.”
That renewed self-assurance and a strong work ethic enabled Carolina to quickly rise up the ranks at the restaurant. She soon found herself working behind the counter as a crew member and winning the prestigious Crew Member of the Year Award in 1991, which recognizes the top-performing crew in the country.
After being promoted to manager, Carolina discovered her new title also came with an all-new responsibility: serving as a mentor to her staff. It’s a special role that she continues to cherish to this day.
“I want to be a mentor to young people, who, like me, may feel insecure about their first job,” said Carolina. “Taking a part-time or job at McDonald’s can teach responsibility, discipline and good work skills.”
Proud of the positive impact she has made on the lives of her employees –both past and present— Carolina fondly recalls recently running into a former crew member who thanked her for her guidance and encouragement, which inspired him to finish college and embark on a new career.
“Knowing that you have helped a young person move on to success is so wonderful,” she said.
Carolina’s “pay it forward” philosophy has also led her towards continued success at McDonald’s. Earlier this year, she received the 2014 Outstanding General Manager Award from McDonald’s, an annual national honor given to managers that exhibit superior results in selected areas of performance, including quality, service, sales, cleanliness and operational excellence. The first-time award winner credits her family and community for her achievements.
“I have always had the support of my family and the community — my church — so I am involved in any way I can to represent McDonald’s in what I do,” said Carolina.
Despite her busy schedule, Carolina continues to find time to give back to her community. Over the years, she has organized numerous fundraisers for The Salvation Army, Ronald McDonald House of Greater Hudson Valley and other local organizations.