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Hospitality High gives students hands-on experience in resort industry
Hospitality High students listen during an orientation session at the Legacy Lodge at Lake Lanier Islands in Buford Thursday. Seven Hall County high school students were selected to participate in the Hospitality High program, which places the students in jobs in the hospitality service industry for a semester. - photo by SARA GUEVARA
Seven Hall County high school students will be spending three days a week this semester at Lake Lanier Islands Resort fielding guests’ requests at the front desk, creating gourmet cuisine, making beds and even scrubbing bathrooms.

Hall County school system is partnering with Lake Lanier Islands Resort this year to create Hospitality High, a hands-on program in which students from various Hall County high schools get firsthand experience in the hospitality industry.

During third and fourth periods on Mondays, students will participate in the classroom portion of Hospitality High at Lanier Career Center, where they will learn business etiquette and public relations techniques. During the second half of the school day on Tuesdays through Thursdays, students will become interns, working alongside the Lake Lanier Islands Resort staff.

Students in the program will earn two class credits toward graduation, said Rachael McClain, who will be instructing Hospitality High students. She said the program aims to connect students on track for graduation with their future careers, giving them a taste of their options before college.

"As a parent, I don’t want them to spend four years of college tuition and then say, ‘Oh, I don’t think I like this,’" McClain said.

The hospitality industry is projected to be among the fastest-growing industries over the next 10 years, she said.

Gordon Higgins, Hall County school system spokesman, said Hospitality High is a product of the newest emphasis in career technical education, where students learn hands-on skills within the work force combined with traditional classroom education.

He said the program was patterned after the school system’s partnership with Habitat for Humanity that resulted in Habitat High. In its third semester now, the program has allowed Hall County high school students interested in construction to build Habitat homes in
the area. Students now are building their third Habitat home.

By the end of their semester in the Hospitality High program, students will have experience in all aspects of the industry, including front desk operations, human resources, marketing, event planning, food and beverage operations, as well as experience at the golf course and water park.

Katie McLaughlin, spokeswoman for Lake Lanier Islands Resort, said the resort also has a lot to gain from the partnership. She said resort leaders are excited about having ambitious students in their midst.

"You never know what you’re going to find in that local talent we have here," McLaughlin said. "Some of the executives we have here started working at the resort during the summers when they were just 16 and 17 years old."

Three students from North Hall High School, two from Flowery Branch High School, one from Johnson High School and another from Lanier Career Academy will participate in the program’s first semester.

Morgan Barron, 16, is a junior at Flowery Branch High School who is partaking in the program after hearing about it in her marketing class last year.

"I thought it’d be fun because I’m interested in marketing and sales and stuff," Barron said. "That’s definitely what I want to do."

Barron said she joined the program because she likes to travel and hopes to gain hospitality experience at Lake Lanier Islands to assist her in reaching her career goal of working in the travel industry. She said she thinks the experience will beef up her resume and is more beneficial to her than "sitting in a class."

The aspiring travel industry executive said she doesn’t mind learning about the housekeeping side of the resort.

"You have to build your way up in the industry," she said.