COBB COUNTY, Ga. — At 7-feet, 1 inch tall and weighing well over 300 pounds with a Hall of Fame basketball pedigree, Shaquille O’Neal is a lot of things. Sure, he’s a larger-than-life celebrity and personality, but he’s also a business owner who appears to be vested in the future of his employees.
O’Neal also works with Papa John’s Pizza. On Friday, he came out and surprised workers at the popular pizza chain with the gift of going to college. For free.
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Channel 2 Sports Anchor Alison Mastrangelo caught up to O’Neal at the pizza company’s headquarters at The Battery. He told Mastrangelo how much he values education and why he was excited to give the young workers a chance to go to college.
“We allow our team members to further their education at no cost to them. We already have over 60 graduates that have graduated debt free and Papa John’s is doing a wonderful thing,” O’Neal said. “I wish I could take all the credit, but I’m just a team member of a great team.”
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The program, which is called “Dough and Degrees,” encourages workers without a college degree to either go back or enroll with the company picking up the cost from day one. The money covers the cost of tuition and any associated fees. The company said about 80% of the workers who have started the program are front-line workers at their restaurants.
As for the “Big Aristotle”, after the surprise at Papa John’s offices at the Battery, O’Neal got on a school bus and helped his teammates make pizza deliveries to customers. All in a day’s work for easily the largest member of the pizza company’s board of directors.
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