Classroom Meets Workplace

Of the many challenges facing teachers, one is demonstrating to students the relationship between what they study in class and how to use that knowledge once they’ve left school.

The Department of Education’s Academy of Hospitality and Tourism makes that connection, using a combination of classroom curriculum with hands-on experience to stimulate learning and problem-solving skills, develop good work attitudes and even pave the way for a fulfilling career in the travel industry.

Six public schools in Hawaii have academies: Waipahu and McKinley on Oahu; Baldwin, Maui and Lahainaluna on the Valley Isle, and Kaua’i on the Garden Isle.

I had the opportunity to meet the dynamic directors of two: Kaua’i’s Kathy Morishige, in conjunction with the Visitor Industry Charity Walk May 14 in Lihue, and Waipahu’s Todd Nakayama, during a visit for the program’s graduation.

These academies, among 155 nationwide, use a program from the American Hotel & Lodging Association. Locally, the Hawaii Hotel and Lodging Association provides support, while several hotels and tourism-related businesses offer internships, job shadowing and on-the-job involvement in event planning. The learning component has in-depth studies of the travel industry, with coursework in hospitality, communication, management, sales and marketing, food and beverage, event planning and community service. The work experience has the added benefit of creating networking and relationship-building opportunities for the young people.

Students can earn college credit upon completion of two national exams, or can receive a certification in several hotel-specific fields. The schools have sent students to represent Hawaii at national competitions sponsored by the AHLA. Waipahu placed fourth overall this school year, and first in the Knowledge Bowl competition.

Academy students from Kaua’i High have been very active in broadening their knowledge by participating in numerous civic events in the community or in charity affairs held at hotel properties on the island, visiting hotels and attractions on Oahu, and joining the annual Visitor Industry Charity Walk, where I got to meet them.

It’s reassuring to know that our schools are preparing Hawaii’s young people by not only giving them the fundamentals to be productive citizens, but by giving them opportunities to apply that knowledge in the real world and prepare them for long-term careers in the state’s most important industry.

Charity Begins At Home

The Hawaii Hotel & Lodging Association’s annual statewide Visitor Industry Charity Walk in May was a resounding success, with a record $1,155,100 raised to benefit more than 200 local charities. Meanwhile, on the Big Island, the association presented a $5,000 donation to the Kona Village/Hualalai Relief Fund to help visitor industry workers affected by the March tsunami.

These acts were expressions of the visitor industry’s long-standing civic leadership and involvement in the betterment of our island community.

For the charity walk, a total of 10,950 participants on five islands “put their best slippahs forward” for the event, which marked its 33rd year. The walks were held on three consecutive Saturdays beginning May 7, with Molokai first; Hawaii, Kaua’i and Maui second; and Oahu last.

Maui raised the most money, with donations reaching $470,100. The other totals were Big Island, $161,000; Kaua’i, $137,000; Molokai, $5,000; and Oahu, $382,000. More than $23 million has been raised during the lifetime of the Charity Walk.

This year’s walk was chaired by Kelvin Bloom, president of Aston Hotels & Resorts, who says, “It’s an unprecedented outpouring of kindness and kokua that exemplifies our aloha spirit. A big mahalo to all of the thousands of folks who participated and gave so generously, especially considering the tough economic times.”

The funds will be used to support local organizations engaged in charitable work, meaning the funds raised here stay here.

Dennis Brown, president and CEO of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Honolulu, says, “The Charity Walk has been a consistently significant contributor to BBBS of Honolulu’s after-school mentoring programs for children and youth. We are grateful for the support of the visitor industry community which helps us make a meaningful impact on … children.”

Donna D. Fouts, executive director of the United Cerebral Palsy Association of Hawaii, says, “In these economically challenging times … it is so wonderful to have a Hawaii event like the Visitor Industry Charity Walk that is focused on giving back to our local community. The funds … have gone a long way in helping UCPA provide quality of life for those with disabilities. … UCPA has additionally enjoyed walking as a group each year.”

The HHLA’s donation on the Big Island will help visitor industry employees who lost their livelihoods because of the natural disaster. Affected employees will be invited to apply for aid.

The Kona Village/Hualalai Relief Fund is being administered by the Hualalai Ohana Foundation. The foundation has already provided a $25,000 gift for the fund and will add another $25,000 once the original donation is matched by the public. The foundation is accepting all donations. Information is available at Checks should be mailed to P.O. Box 5227, Kailua-Kona, HI 96745.


Hector Rubio
Position: Director of Catering/Convention Services
Location: St. Regis Princeville Resort
Island: Kaua’i

Although he’s been the St. Regis Princeville’s director of catering/convention services for just under two years, Hector Rubio has made his mark with his uncompromising pursuit of the best experience for the hotel’s guests.

As the manager for the finances and operations of his department, Hector plans unforgettable events for a wide variety of clients. He’s able to juggle his numerous responsibilities and the hotel’s functions with poise, keen judgment and a veteran’s experience. He even works with the staff on skills specific to the St. Regis brand.

Hector is a leader by example, devoting his time to Kaua’i United Way, Visitor Industry Charity Walk and Kaua’i Food Bank.