CHLAHF awards $165K in college scholarships

The California Hotel & Lodging Association Hospitality Foundation (CHLAHF) has awarded $165,000 in scholarships to 52 students to pursue hospitality, tourism and culinary arts degrees at 10 California colleges. The scholarship winners celebrated at the Hospitality Foundation’s annual gala on Nov. 3 at Disney’s Grand California Hotel and Spa in Anaheim, CA.

“The CHLA Hospitality Foundation is arguably the most transformational kind of philanthropy, supporting hospitality employees and students in job skills, financial independence, self-sufficiency and the dignity and sense of accomplishment they instill,” said Michael Pace, chair, CHLAHF and general manager, InterContinental Mark Hopkins San Francisco.

Annually, the CHLAHF celebrates up to 100 individuals who commit their educational careers to hospitality and excel in these studies, Pace said.

“We honor their diligence and work ethic and provide opportunities for strong and extended careers,” he added.

CHLAHF has awarded more than $8 million to more than 6,000 students since it was formed in 1948 as the Hotel & Restaurant Foundation at City College in San Francisco.

Any student studying hospitality, tourism or culinary arts at a four-year or two-year California college or university is eligible. This year’s award recipients included students from San Diego State University, University of San Francisco, San Jose State, Cal Poly Pomona, California State University, Monterey Bay, City College of San Francisco, Chico State University, California State University Long Beach, Orange Coast and California State University East Bay.

“Choosing a career in the hotel and lodging industry provides dynamic opportunities for upward mobility,” Pace said. “These jobs are diverse, ranging from entry-level to CEOs of major hotel brands. The industry provides part-time and full-time employment opportunities with excellent training and career path development. We support our colleagues and their families with outstanding wages and top-of-the-line benefits. California hospitality jobs provide life-long careers for many residents. Our benefits include healthcare, pensions/401ks, free meals, paid education and free stays at hotels.”

CHLAHF’s scholarship committee is comprised of hospitality professionals, who review each application, selecting the honorees based on grade point average, declaration to pursue a hospitality degree and dedicated hospitality work experience.

“The recipients are chosen based on their interview scores. The students are asked questions about their passion for the industry, goals for themselves in the industry and communication skills. They also are asked about their plans after graduation, their best and worst qualities and what they enjoy doing outside of school or work,” Pace said.

It’s simple for students to apply: they submit their resume, transcript and photo online, and then are interviewed by two hospitality personnel, usually via Zoom. The students are then scored by the interview team on responses to questions.

“We have seen many of these students go on to have successful careers within the industry. In fact, two of our past recipients—Jackie Alcantara and Easton Mayordomo— have not only found success within the industry but have also helped us shape this foundation as CHLAHF Board Members. Jackie is currently the sales manager at the St. Regis Hotel in San Francisco and Easton is the corporate director of revenue management at Sunland RV Resorts in San Diego.”

Pace said that the Foundation Board often gets so inspired by the applicants that it’s not uncommon that they hire them for positions at their own hotel. In fact, Pace hired its current front desk manager at the InterContinental Mark Hopkins in San Francisco that was a 2018 scholarship recipient.

“After meeting so many students throughout our interview process, I am confident that the next generation of hospitality leaders are going to go far,” Pace said. “Our team is inspired by the passion we see in many of the students we meet. They are just starting out in this industry but have the desire and skillset to change our industry for the better. Many of our board members and hotel executives, including myself, were mentored when we were first starting out in the industry and we want to be able to pay that back by nurturing that drive and helping them turn their dreams into actions.”

Not only inspiring, but the Foundation can also help with staffing challenges, creating a pipeline for students to begin hospitality careers through speaking engagements, recruiting events, internships and of course, scholarships.

However, Pace said, the single most important thing that they are doing as an industry to attract young people is putting words into action.

“We are focusing on training and nurturing our staff to create a career path for future managers,” Pace said. “Most hotel brands have a robust training program to guide young people with their career path and help them move up and work toward a high-level position. By offering ongoing education opportunities and mentoring across different areas within the business, we are demonstrating that we want employees to pursue opportunities that are most interesting to them and to have long-standing and fulfilling careers with us.”