Magazine article Techniques

A "Capital" Venture

Magazine article Techniques

A "Capital" Venture

Article excerpt

It's Been a Monumental First Year for this Hospitality-Based D.C. Charter High School

When college student Thomas Penney took a job as a dishwasher for the Andrews Airforce Base Holiday Inn in 1992, he had no idea he'd just embarked on a career in hospitality management. The University of Maryland business major quickly advanced from dishwasher to front desk clerk to restaurant manager while working his way through school.

Today Penney manages the Holiday Inn Capitol's Smithon's Restaurant and shares his enthusiasm about the hospitality industry as a mentor for the new Marriott Hospitality Public Charter High School (MHPCHS)--the nation's only high school devoted to the hospitality industry.

"In a large restaurant or hotel, you can be involved in office management, human resources, accounting, finance, PR and marketing," says DeDe McClure, head of the Greater Washington Hospitality Foundation, which raises funds for the charter school. "The amazing thing about hospitality, it's so broad-based."

Launched last year in Washington, D.C., MHPCHS strives to prepare students for college and careers in hospitality management. The hospitality industry--which includes food, lodging, recreation, and travel and tourism services--is the largest and fastest-growing employment sector in D.C., says McClure. With a new convention center in the works, the city will be looking to fill 10,000 new hospitality-related positions in the coming years.

The school is a joint effort between the Hotel Association of Washington, D.C., and the Restaurant Association of Metro Washington. The two associations joined forces in 1996, forming the Greater Washington Hospitality Foundation to raise money for the school. Because the labor market is tight, the school's sponsors--several local hospitality-related organizations--see it as way of creating a future workforce.

"Because hospitality is the largest employer here in the city and because the greatest opportunities are afforded through education," says McClure, "the hospitality community wanted to contribute this opportunity to kids here in the city."

The foundation wrote the charter application and was instrumental in finding the location near the city's convention center. McClure staffed the school, oversaw its renovation of a former municipal building, established the curriculum and recruited students in the first year.

To recruit students, the foundation approached community-based organizations, local churches, other charter middle schools and D.C. public junior high and middle schools. The foundation also did some advertising on the radio and promotions through the employees of local hotels and restaurants.

The inaugural class in September 1999 had 65 freshman and sophomore students. The school's enrollment goal is to have 50 students in each grade with a maximum of 200. Each class is limited to 15 students.

Public and private funding

The D.C. public school system gives the charter school $4,000-6,000 per student--as it does other charter schools in the city. The remainder of the school's budget comes from private donations. The Bethesda, Md.-based Marriott Corp. was the first and largest contributor, donating $1 million from the J. Willard and Alice S. Marriott Foundation.

Fundraising efforts so far have yielded $3.6 million in combined cash and commitments from area hotels, restaurants and related industry groups. School officials hope to raise an additional $2 million to create an endowment for the program.

Students come from all over the city and from various economic backgrounds, ranging from the academically gifted to the academically challenged.

Since MHPCHS is limited to D.C. high school students, interested students need only to fill out applications and prove residency in the District. Students are accepted on a first-come, first-served basis.

The school is open year-round and operates on a four quarter system, with students taking a total of eight courses per year. …

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