Job shadow program gives teens real-world skills

Students train for jobs in the hotel industry

Job shadow program gives teens real-world skills

PALM DESERT, Calif. -- - Juan Gamez is graduating from high school at the end of the month, and already has a pretty impressive resume.

"I got hired as a worker at the Hyatt," says Gamez, "and I've had three jobs since then, part time of course, 'til I finish high school."

Gamez is in the Coachella Valley High School Partnership Academy.

For the past 21 years, around 20 at-risk students have spent one day a week job shadowing at the Desert Springs JW Marriott Resort and Spa in Palm Desert.

"We help them learn how to work in the public, we help them make contacts, we help them make resumes," says Dennis Mendonca, lead teacher for the hospitality program, "even as simply as we show them how to shake hands. Many of our students are offered, and accept, jobs that will help them pursue their careers."

It's a good place to learn. According to Coachella Valley Economic Partnership, nearly 20 percent of jobs in the Valley are in resort and recreation.

"It gives them the opportunity to see what hospitality is really all about," says Michael Bills, director of Human Resources at Desert Springs. "They really see if this is their career of choice, or something they want to pursue in the future."

Students work with special events, human resources, and culinary arts.

"They asked me if I could man the omelet station. I was so excited, and I ran out, and for the next two or three weeks, every Tuesday, I would make omelets for guests," says Gamez. "Being able to interact with people was really fun."

Students also did manual labor, re-paving the clay courts for the tennis and lawn recreation courts on property.

"What this does is helps them get those jobs that will help them get through college," says Mendonca. "Many of our kids become chefs, want to own their own business, so this helps them get the groundwork down."

Without job shadowing at Desert Springs, Gamez says he wouldn't have been accepted into his dream school.

"Johnson and Wales University in Rhode Island, which is a private, culinary-hospitality university," says Gamez with a sense of pride. "My dream is to get my business management degree and start my own restaurant."

Other properties that participated in the program included Renaissance Esmeralda-Indian Wells, Mira Monte, Hyatt-Indian Wells, and Palm Springs Convention & Visitors Bureau. For more on the program, visit www.CVHS.CVUSD.US.

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