First hospitality students set to graduate this year

Rose Cameron shows hospitality students a list of instructions followed by bussers at El Tovar. The hour long job shadow was one of more than a dozen set up by Xanterra from mid-February to mid-March.

Rose Cameron shows hospitality students a list of instructions followed by bussers at El Tovar. The hour long job shadow was one of more than a dozen set up by Xanterra from mid-February to mid-March.

This year, Grand Canyon School will graduate its first class of students trained in hospitality - the first ever to take advantage of a host of learning resources here in one of the vacation capitals of the world.

The program is being offered at the school through the Coconino Association for Vocations Industry and Technology, or CAVIAT, which provides funding to districts for approved vocational or technical programs within their boundaries.

Culinary arts had been offered through CAVIAT for more than 10 years, but a few years back, district officials began to survey parents and students to gauge interest in a second track. Based on the results, Superintendent Sheila Breen said that hospitality made the most sense, both for a small school and for one in this location.

"We ran a couple of surveys to find out what kids wanted to know and what programs to start," she said. "The results changed from year to year. One year they wanted to know about technology, the next year they all wanted to go into business, and there was still this underlying interest in culinary so we didn't want that program to go away."

Hospitality seemed like the best way to combine all of those things, as well as tapping into the region's dominant industry, she said.

They started planning for the 2007-2008 school year, bringing on a new instructor to replace culinary teacher Kathy Keske and begin writing the curriculum for the new program.

When she quit before the school year started, school Food Service Director Matt Yost stepped up to teach the culinary program. They also tapped one of their substitute teachers, Karen Weber, who has extensive vocational and curriculum-writing experience.

She introduced Hos-pitality last year and added Hospitality II for this year. She also rewrote curriculum for the freshman career exploration class, developing introductions to culinary and hospitality while including the design cycle to meet IB requirements. All students take this course for technology credit.

There are about 60 students enrolled in the program, about half of them in the advanced classes.

Student also get dual credit from Coconino Community College - six for culinary and three for hospitality.

Weber's own background is in family and consumer sciences. For the three years before coming to Grand Canyon, she taught child development in Flagstaff.

"They asked if I would consider taking that on, writing a curriculum for the program and possibly teaching it the following year," she said. "So far it's working out."

The community has also been a wealth of support. Weber said she's networked with professionals in Grand Canyon and Tusayan for materials, advice and the chance to expose students to the industry.

Grand Canyon Association has donated books to the library on the history of hospitality at the Canyon and Tusayan hotel managers like the Squire's Greg Bryan and Red Feather's Bess Foster have offered themselves as resources to review materials and line up speakers.

Recently, students spent a week shadowing workers in every aspect of Xanterra's hospitality operations from retail, to lodging, food and beverage and warehousing.

"Our trainers got involved," said Xanterra Food and Beverage Manager Rose Cameron. "They've looked at rooms retail warehouse - various aspects throughout Xanterra because we've got a little bit of everything."

Delaware North also invited students in to view their operation.

Ideally they would like to offer the introductory classes to all freshmen, level I and II classes in sophomore and junior years and a senior internship.

One of the biggest obstacles is funding, as the state is refusing to count internships as CAVIAT classes. Breen said that she wrote a letter challenging that on the grounds that internships are an approved part of the curriculum.

Xanterra Food and Beverage Manager David Beckerleg also serves on the CAVIAT board. He said getting a program going is a priority.

"For our environment on the South Rim it's a natural," he said.

"If they can go and work with Xanterra or the Squire or one of the hotels, it makes all the difference in the world," said Breen. "It's essential. What good does it do these kids to go through the program if they've got no hands-on experience."

In the midst of getting a program off the ground, they've had to scale back their ambitions some. They were hoping to revitalize the school store but Weber said the focus just isn't there.

"There are just too many irons and we haven't developed it yet," she said.

They also looked into Skills USA, a culinary skills competition, but since that didn't include hospitality they are leaning toward a similar group, Consumer Leaders of America.

While something like fire science is conceivable here, other popular programs like nursing aren't. Ultimately, it comes down to enrollment. Breen said about 10 students are needed to make a program go. She does envision a future where students travel for hands-on training but can complete coursework online in their home districts.

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