Students find hospitality can pave road to a career

NEIGHBORS

January 27, 2002|By Rosalie Falter | Rosalie Falter,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

YOU MIGHT BE on a cruise, or you might be flying across the country. Maybe you are dining in a restaurant or enjoying a bus trip. Wherever you are, the person serving you or helping you with your arrangements just might be a former North County High School student who studied at the school's Academy of Hospitality/Travel & Tourism.

The program, offered to 11th- and 12th-grade students, is a partnership of the school, business and community that offers classroom study and hands-on training through paid internships at local businesses.

Jessica Simon, 16, a junior, said the program gives her a feel for the career she intends to pursue. By participating in the program, she expects to gain experience and a head start on others who enter the hospitality field. She said she has learned strategies that are important in the field, such as building teamwork.

Jessica is an intern at Homewood Suites near Baltimore-Washington International Airport. She works part time at the reception desk and has worked in other areas of the hotel.

"It is exciting," she said. "I never know what to expect."

Jessica says she is a good organizer, a skill that is necessary in the hospitality business. It must be true: Besides attending school and working weekends at the hotel, she also has a part-time job as a cashier at Jiffy Lube, is active in her church's youth group and participates in liturgical dancing at the church. Last year she was president of the youth group.

At school, she runs track and is involved with Students Against Destructive Decisions (SADD). And in August, she graduated from Barbizon Modeling School in Towson.

"I'm the type that likes to keep busy," Jessica said.

Jessica is the daughter of Jacqueline Smoot and Cecil Simon. She lives in Glen Burnie with her mother.

Twelfth-grader Nikki Royster is in her second year in the program. She, too, is an intern at Homewood Suites and has worked there for 16 months. In February last year she was named Employee of the Month, and received a check and plaque.

Recently, she won recognition for having a perfect attendance record at work. Nikki works the front desk and has worked in the kitchen and housekeeping department - she also has filled in for a van driver.

"I think I am an asset to the hotel," Nikki said. "I have a positive attitude and catch on quick."

Nikki said there is a lot she needs to know in her job, including how to accommodate guests when they are angry. She believes she is especially good at making reservations and knowing what to say to customers when they call.

"If it is a family making reservations, I mention the pool. If it is a businessperson flying out of BWI, I make sure to mention that we have a shuttle to the airport," she said.

At North County, Nikki runs track and field and is an officer in Future Business Leaders of America. Last year she won the Outstanding Student Award, chosen from among all students in the five academies that operate in Anne Arundel County public schools.

After graduation, Nikki plans to continue her career in hospitality. "I love working with people," she said. Her goal is to study business management and perhaps own a hotel someday. She believes the hospitality course is good for recognition and for getting into college.

Nikki lives in Glen Burnie with her mother, Karen Johnson. Her father is Melvin Royster.

Nikki and Jessica are listed in Who's Who Among American High School Students.

The Academy of Hospitality/Travel & Tourism is affiliated with the National Academy Foundation in New York, according to Lois Freburger, director of the hospitality program at North County. She said the idea for the academies came about because businesses experience a shortage of employees. Working as partners, businesses and schools help students get a start in their careers, whether in finance, information technology or marketing and management.

Freburger said students in the hospitality academy learn everything from how to dress to how to fold napkins and fill out job applications. They tour hotels in the area, do role-playing exercises and learn a little bit of business management.

They also take trips. In New York, Freburger said, the students stayed close to Chinatown to experience the culture there. In Newark, Del., they were invited to stay overnight at the Embassy Suites hotel, where they learned how that facility operates.

On Feb. 15, the seniors in the hospitality program will travel to San Francisco. In preparation, they researched airlines and hotels and explored what there was to see and do there. Preparing for the trip, said Freburger, is a culmination of all they have studied.

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