This month marks three years since Mychal Curry started his job at Walmart and one year since he joined the Live Better U program, which is helping him pursue a degree in business management and leadership.
Curry said these are two steps in his journey toward a higher title and dreams of business ownership.
As assistant manager at Walmart on North Harvey Mitchell Parkway in Bryan, Curry is responsible for ensuring that store operations run smoothly. Even with five fellow managers and assistant managers, Curry said maintaining the supercenter takes lots of time, patience and precision.
He enjoys the challenge, but Curry said he sets benchmarks to make sure he accomplishes his lifetime goals. After graduating with a bachelor’s degree in history from Prairie View A&M University, a second degree was already on his mind.
So when Walmart’s Live Better U launched last year, Curry was one of the first people to sign up for the program that allows him to earn a bachelor’s degree from Bellevue University for $1 per day.
Curry said it can be hard to go back to school after some time off, but he plans to graduate within the next year.
“I’m just trying to push through this knowing that once I get through it, basically everything is open again for me to do whatever I want, chase whatever I want to chase and pursue any of my ambitions,” Curry said.
Since the launch in September 2018, more than 7,500 Walmart associates across the country — 417 from Texas — have joined the program. Initially, the Live Better U program offered the $1 per day degree, free high school completion, higher education discounts and free foreign language learning. Since June, it has expanded to include new technology degrees and certificates and a path for high school students to earn free college credits.
“We wanted to make sure we have something for everyone,” said Michelle Malashock, director of media relations and corporate communications at Walmart headquarters.
Malashock said the journey to create Live Better U started in 2016 when Walmart created academies for associates to complete work skills training. After receiving high praise and participation in Walmart’s academies, the company decided to go further by developing a pathway for a college education.
Walmart eventually partnered with Guild Education, which administers Live Better U on the company’s behalf. Guild — which specializes in partnering businesses with schools for similar programs — helped Walmart design Live Better U and select six universities with online degree plans that meet employee needs.
“It’s really all about helping our associates reach their potential by removing barriers to access education,” Malashock said.
For Curry, the program does just that. Earning his first degree was nothing short of a challenge between the personal struggles that led to multiple school transfers and the financial burden. But the Live Better U program helps by eliminating the need to work multiple jobs to afford school.
Even with the help, working and going to school can still be difficult. Curry said he leans on memories of his late mother, who also pursued an education when she was about 30 years old, to get him through tough days.
“I’m around my mom’s age when she graduated from pharmacy school,” Curry said. “She pushed and pushed and pushed herself. So I think if my mom did it, I can do it.”
The support he receives from his family, program members and a college counselor are also helpful, Curry said.
While Curry is working toward a home office position at Walmart and a bachelor’s degree now, he eventually wants to pursue a master’s degree and open a consignment shop. He wants it to double as a workspace for local experts, such as tailors or craftsmen, to host classes and teach their skills.
Curry said he recommends the program for anyone looking to earn a higher education, even though going back to school or going for the first time can be frightening.
“I always try to tell people to stay positive,” he said. “Take it one step at a time.”