Magazine Online    The Authority On African-American Conventions, Incentives, & Leisure Travel
Issue: January/February 2019


Twenty (20) local area high school students studying hospitality and tourism from Ballou Senior High School and Maya Angelou Public Charter High School had the chance to listen to the career journeys taken by industry elite at Black Meetings & Tourism Magazine presents: "Building Diversity in the Travel Industry" Mentoring Program Kick Off at the Washington Plaza Hotel on Friday, September 14, 2018 held during the 48th Annual Congressional Black Caucus Legislative Conference.

Students heard the stories from panelists that included: Norm Jenkins - President, Capstone Development LLC, Marlinda Henry - Director of Events & Planning, Full Gospel Baptist Church, Al Tucker - Vice President, Multicultural Business Development, Greater Fort Lauderdale Convention & Visitors Bureau, Solomon & Gloria Herbert - Publishers/Editors, Black Meetings & Tourism Magazine, Beverly Bentley - Owner, Bentley Travel Services, and Geralyn Stevens Of United Airlines. The panel was moderated by Dr. Erinn Tucker, Faculty Director and Associate Professor of the Proactive at Georgetown University School of Continuing Studies.

Al Tucker believes that it is important to engage with students at all levels, but especially at the high school level.  Tucker stated "It is very important to ensure that young people get exposed to jobs in the tourism industry that are not just service jobs.  The more a student can have a discussion about various career opportunities the better." Marlinda Henry believes "We have a great opportunity to provide insight from the hospitality & tourism career path.  A lot of us never set-out to be in the hospitality and tourism industry and we learned while on the job.  At this level, we are able to open the eyes of our future industry professionals."

Brittany H. Anderson, Coordinator, Academy of Hospitably & Tourism at Frank W. Ballou Senior High school knows the importance of engaging with industry at the high school level. She states "Providing youth with experiential learning opportunities allow scholars to try careers before starting college, before determining a major, or even before applying for their first summer job. A strong education is the foundation of our livelihood. By pairing quality education with professional industry experience, we position scholars for success in the industry." Akoshia Yoba, Director, Career Academy at Maya Angelou Public Charter High School concurs and believes that engaging youth provides models for them to strive towards. Yoba states "In particular the students we work with are often from neighborhoods with high crime, high poverty and low income statistics. As such, exposing them to professionals who have come from similar backgrounds and who are now successful in their lives and professions, allows students to understand that they too can overcome their current challenges and rise to the occasion of their lives."

Students were then treated to a lunch and learn from a national perspective by attending the National Policy Alliance's Annual Business Meeting where each high school program received a generous gift.  "Mentoring and giv[ing] back is one of the most important areas that can assist a student in making the right career choice," said Al Tucker, and education is the beginning point. Anderson remembers a quote shared to her by her father "People don't care how much you know until they know how much you care." Anderson acknowledges that "We are all in the industry of service. It is our responsibility to create and build the next generation of service providers, so the cycle of professionalism will continue to go on. We must continue to support the younger generation with their skills, knowledge and abilities to ensure they are effectively prepared for their next phase in life. The group of professionals at this event, were true examples of that." Therefore, the mandate for all professionals is that we must look for more opportunities to connect our students to the people who have paved the way.

Dr. Erinn D. Tucker is Faculty Director, and Associate Professor of the Practice in the Global Hospitality Leadership program at Georgetown University School of Continuing Studies. Follow her on Twitter @erinntucker. 

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