I grew up in Southeast D.C. and graduated from Cesar Chavez High School. My family is big, so we usually hold our holiday dinners at a nearby hotel.
Visiting these hotels first introduced me to the hospitality industry. Being catered to made me feel a kind of luxury I wasn’t used to. It felt great and I loved it. I realized that I wanted to give the same feeling to others who may not be accustomed to it.
This is how my passion for the industry started, but I had a lot of development left to do.
Washington, D.C., is a city booming with opportunity, entrepreneurship and innovation. Potentially, any graduate here could grow up and become whoever they want to be. But if they aren’t exposed to different career paths—like I was—how do they find the right one? How can the city expose students to what’s really possible?
When I was 13, I discovered the Marion Barry Summer Youth Program (MBSYEP), which connects youth in the District with internships and opportunities to actually work in fields where they might one day want a career.
Sure, I knew that I wanted to do something in hospitality, but as a 13-year-old first-time job seeker, I wasn’t sure how to get there. My mentors at the program knew and were able to hook me up.
My peers in the program got jobs protecting swimmers as lifeguards, interning with Microsoft or installing solar panels on roofs in low-income communities.
The job I landed jump-started a career for me. I learned how to perfect my resume, wear the proper business attire and build an incredible work ethic.
I was rewarded when the MBSYEP gave me the leadership title of ambassador. There is no doubt in my mind that the MBSYEP put me on the path to achieving my life’s dream.
A Dream Still Strong
Now I’m an undergraduate student at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, which has the number one hospitality program in the nation.
In addition to receiving a top-notch education, I have also taken advantage of the opportunity to intern at a local Marriott. I’ve done so well and contributed so much to the hotel that not only was I promoted to a key staff position, but I also supervise new interns.
When I graduate in December, I may very well return to the MBSYEP program. As a teenage ambassador, I enjoyed the work so much that I went above and beyond the call of duty—I helped students prepare for their interviews, find scholarships for school and so much more. I could easily see myself reconnecting with my mentors and continuing that work.
After all, the program gave me an opportunity to do good things. I want to show another generation of young people that with great opportunity comes great responsibility—and a pretty sweet career, too.