Home Education Options Charlie's Produce Offers Debt-Free College Education to Employees and Dependents Who Attend APU
Charlie's Produce Offers Debt-Free College Education to Employees and Dependents Who Attend APU

Charlie's Produce Offers Debt-Free College Education to Employees and Dependents Who Attend APU

Learn more about degree programs at American Public University.

By Melanie Conner, Alumni Relations Outreach Liaison, APUS, and Brandy Jesse, Human Resources Manager, Charlie’s Produce 

A West Coast produce company has launched an educational partnership program to its employees and dependents for a debt-free college education. Modeling the program after Starbucks’ College Achievement Plan, the company aligns their mission and goals with employee needs. Continue reading to learn more about the program’s first graduate and how the program evolved.

Charlie’s Produce is the largest privately owned produce wholesale company on the West Coast. One goal of the company is to develop long-lasting partnerships with customers by getting to know each customer’s needs and expectations. Charlie’s Produce takes a similar interest in the needs and expectations of its employees.

In October 2015, two of the owners, Charlie and Ray, called a staff meeting after Charlie attended a charity event. He had learned about the large debt college students accrue during a four-year college program.

In keeping with the company’s mission of being proud of its employees and partnering with them for success, Charlie became passionate about extending an educational opportunity to his employees and their dependent children. The company manager of human resources, Brandy Jesse, met with the owners to work out how to create an educational partnership program.

Brandy researched scholarship opportunities versus reimbursement opportunities. Brandy and the owners of Charlie’s Produce all agreed they did not want a scholarship or an endowment program that would force them to turn down employees and dependents for one reason or another. They wanted their educational partnership program to be all-inclusive, offering free tuition to employees who are pursuing any degree program.

Charlie’s Produce wanted a university that offered a wide variety of degree programs. It had to be affordable and offer degree programs from the associate level to the master’s degree.

Brandy thoroughly researched many universities and even connected with a representative from Starbucks to better understand how its partnership with Arizona State University works.

Brandy and Charlie’s Produce selected American Public University as the best university with which to partner for their needs. Employees and dependents provided positive feedback.

In December 2015, the Charlie’s Produce College Dream Program was launched. The program gives employees and their dependents the opportunity to graduate in a field of their choice debt-free.

Charlie’s Produce is proud of its first graduate, Jordan Davis, the dependent daughter of an employee. Jordan embodies the spirit of the College Dream Program.

She was able to earn her master’s degree from APU while teaching English in Africa. Jordan says, “Thank you to Charlie’s Produce for the amazing opportunity. The doors are already opening and I feel so lucky to have been a part of the program.”

Charlie’s Produce hopes she will be the first of many employees and dependents to graduate with a solid, debt-free education.

Learn more about degree programs at American Public University.

About the Authors

Melanie Conner is an Alumni Relations Outreach Liaison who has worked at APUS since 2011. Previously, she was an English teacher at Piedmont Christian School. Melanie holds a bachelor’s degree in sociology from the University of Mary Washington.

Brandy Jesse has been the Human Resources Manager at Charlie’s Produce since 2003. She is a member of the Society for Human Resources Management (SHRM) and holds a bachelor’s degree in classics/Latin from the University of Washington.