Katy Isd Students Get an Inside Track on the Hospitality Industry Through Corporate Partnership

Miller Career and Technology Center student participants and 11th graders Keyona Hypolite, Mario Lopez, Mike Gonzales, Wanda Gamez, Arturo Garcia and Kelsey Phebus, 12th grader Carolina Daza and Hospitality teacher Wendy Bousley head to work and learn at the Wyndam Houston West Energy Corridor Hotel.

Miller Career and Technology Center student participants and 11th graders Keyona Hypolite, Mario Lopez, Mike Gonzales, Wanda Gamez, Arturo Garcia and Kelsey Phebus, 12th grader Carolina Daza and Hospitality teacher Wendy Bousley head to work and learn at the Wyndam Houston West Energy Corridor Hotel.

Three times a week, a group of eager high school students step off of a Miller Career and Technology Center (MCTC) bus for an hour-long adventure in learning at the Wyndham Houston West Energy Corridor Hotel. Now in its 18th year, the property partnership in affiliation with Katy Independent School District is one of only a couple of offerings in Greater Houston that provide teens hands-on insight into the hospitality industry with elective job shadowing.

MCTC is also one the few facilities of its kind in the country to offer no-cost academic training and pre-professional experiences, which complement a traditional class schedule. Designed to prepare students for the transition from high school to post-secondary and career success, enrollees partake in specialized career and technology programs, as well as core classes for half a day at MCTC while continuing to attend their home high school campus the rest of the day.

Wendy Bousley, teacher for the Hospitality Services class and Culinary Arts for Miller’s Hospitality and Tourism Program, one of a dozen available disciplines offered at Miller Career and Technology Center, said, “A hotel is unique in that it showcases such a variety of potential career opportunities. Three week rotations give students exposure to departments that best suit their interests, including management, food and beverage, sales and marketing, accounting and revenue management plus human resources, in addition to customer service skills at the front desk.”

While a number of her students see the hospitality services internship as an opportunity to position themselves for a more permanent internship, a job following graduation or a coveted spot at the University of Houston Conrad N. Hilton College of Hotel and Restaurant Management, Bousley noted that the Hospitality Services class also offers a more immediate benefit for many. A majority of the interns are already juggling an after school job or intend to be working in the summer. Most are employed in the restaurant industry, and the program allows them to earn a ServSafe Food Safety and Sanitation Certification through the National Restaurant Association. This certification traditionally leads to promotions and raises.

This semester highlights a wide range of personalities who have sought out the program – often sacrificing personal time in the process – for very different reasons, and who also have come away from the experience with very different reactions.

Kelsey Phebus counts two parents in the hotel industry, including one who is a chef. She feels that this has been a good way to see if it’s is a fit for her and has already found a leaning to the restaurant side of the business.

Mike Gonzales was drawn to this program because he and his family travel a lot in the summer months, and he was intrigued to learn how hotels operate. The experience has cemented his interest in accounting, but given all the moving parts of a hotel, he sees himself in a more focused firm environment now.

Wanda Gamez’s brother recently made the leap from architecture to hospitality in college. She is now looking at a similar path. While she was first interested in the culinary arts, her time at the Wyndham has generated an affinity with catering and event planning.

“We are thrilled to be an ongoing supporter of this initiative. Miller Career and Technology Center is a true asset to the Katy area, which is a key community that we serve.  Just as some of these students have learned from us, we’ve also learned from them. We’ve been so impressed by their initiative, as well as the sacrifices they have made to commit to this program, and we see great things ahead for them,” said Chris Miller, Wyndham Houston West Energy Corridor’s General Manager.