More than 240 high school students from across New York City visited SJC Brooklyn this month for “Showcase of the Stars,” an event conducted by the Multicultural Foodservice and Hospitality Alliance (MFHA) to promote opportunities in the hospitality industry for students from diverse backgrounds.
“We were thrilled to host (this) program – a fantastic opportunity to present the thriving hospitality industry to a diverse group of learners as they reach adulthood,” said Damien Duchamp, associate chair of SJC Brooklyn’s Hospitality & Tourism Management academic program. “It was a great opportunity for our students to not only rub elbows with the leaders of well-known hospitality brands, but also play an integral role in organizing and executing this complex event with over 300 guests.”
At the Nov. 3 event, Gerry A. Fernandez, president of MFHA, discussed his career path with the assembled students, including the challenges and successes he encountered along the way. He said that though the choices he made weren’t always the right ones, he still managed to always persevere and succeed thanks to hard work, good communication and faith.
He then moderated a panel discussion with five executives from nationwide franchises, such as Dunkin’ Donuts and Buffalo Wild Wings, and local hospitality groups, such as the Union Square Hospitality Group, founders of Shake Shack and the Union Square Tavern. The panelists elaborated on their career paths, what their days looked like, and the skills that they needed to thrive in their respective organizations.
“Entrepreneurship and a culture of ownership are essential to transforming communities, creating opportunity, and generating wealth,” Fernandez said. “I was glad to speak and bring a panel of working leaders in the hospitality industry to St. Joseph’s College for Showcase of the Stars so that the high school students could see all of the potential that exists within the industry.”
After lunch, students took part in five panel discussions, led by the speakers. From these talks, students gained a better appreciation of what would be expected of them if they pursued a career in the industry and how to prepare for being successful.
“This event illustrates what we are trying to accomplish at SJC – bringing together students, educators and potential mentors at every level,” said Duchamp. “By working together across our respective sectors, we look to elevate and ensure the future of the industry.”