Twelve Greenbriar West Elementary students recently learned firsthand what it's like to work in a hotel when they participated in the annual Camp Hyatt Career Day.
In a unique opportunity to gain knowledge about the travel and tourism industry, the fifth-graders spent a day working alongside Hyatt Fair Lakes employees in a variety of jobs. And before they went, they had to fill out job applications and be selected by their school.
"The kids were extraordinary," said hotel general manager Gail Smith-Howard. "They had a great attitude and a wonderful aptitude for learning and trying new things. It educated them about the hospitality industry and exposed the public to the youth of today. We felt privileged to have them — they're a great bunch of kids."
Michael Doherty, 11, worked in catering. "You get to plan parties, make flyers, decide how everything is, find out how many people are coming and then make the best arrangements for them," he explained. "And if there's a theme, you follow it."
He made flyers for a bulletin board to celebrate five Hyatt employees' birthdays and toured the building. "It's a great place," he said. "I liked the Presidential Room best; it had two TVs — even one in the bathroom — and neat towels folded into different shapes."
Sabiha Ladak, 11, worked at the front desk, answering phones and putting messages into the computer for guests. "You have to know all about the hotel because the visitors always ask you questions at the front desk," she said. "And they tell you if there's a problem with, for example, the food or their room."
She enjoyed answering the phones and meeting new people and said she wouldn't mind doing it as a real job. She said participating in Camp Hyatt is a good idea because "it'll help you when you're older and need a job. It's good experience and it's a lot of fun."
Stephen Park, 12, worked as a restaurant manager. "We went to places where only chefs and managers get to go — it was really cool," he said. "Then we learned how to fold napkins — they were rectangular with little lines that you put spoons and forks in. We also learned how to use the computer that makes sure you know which table gets what food and how much they have to pay."
While there, he served franks, crabcakes, lemonade and soda. "I sort of spilled some coffee when I was pouring it — the pot was heavy," he said. "And I learned to be polite to customers to make them feel welcome. I'd say, 'Hello, how are you? What would you like to drink?' They seemed to like it."
Stephen especially liked the hotel's indoor swimming pool and said Camp Hyatt helped him so that "when I grow up, I will be more responsible and more experienced."
Serving as one of four chefs that day, Victor Hsu, 11, worked with real chef Darrell Washington. "He showed us the workings of the hotel, including the laundry room and the loading dock," said Victor. Then the student chefs cooked lunch for Hyatt employees and their fellow students.
"The funniest part was that our meal was Rice Krispie Treats, spaghetti and sauce — and a Caesar salad for vegetarians," said Victor. "I didn't know sugar and butter went into Rice Krispie Treats."
He called the Hyatt "one of those really big, fancy hotels. Inside the kitchen were lots of gadgets for opening things and mixing food. And we got to walk around in uniforms and hats." Victor said he'd enjoy being a chef there because "I'd like to prepare food and bring it to people."
Joey Garon, 11, was the human-resources manager. "I got to fill out this board telling how many guests were coming to the hotel that day, how many were leaving, how many were in the hotel and what percentage of it was filled," he explained.
Joey also noted what parties were taking place and which business meetings. Then he walked around photographing the other students doing their jobs and, later, made a poster out of it for the school. Said Joey: "You had to be physically fit because you had to go all over the hotel."
As a catering manager, Candice Shedd-Thompson, 10, learned how to plan parties. "One time, [the Hyatt] had a beach party and filled up an entire area with sand," she said. "They throw parties for bar mitzvahs, weddings and anniversaries. And they barbecue outside on the patio on Fridays in the summer."
Caitlin Flessate, 11, was in housekeeping and says the Hyatt does a huge amount of laundry. "There were sheets up to the ceiling and a lot of washers," she said. "They made sure the rooms are clean and the ice buckets are filled. It's amazing how much the housekeepers were responsible for — I know now it's not as easy as it seems."
She said Camp Hyatt shows how people work at a huge hotel and that there's lots of teamwork. And, said Caitlin, "It showed me how a real job would be."