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COMMUNITY NEWS: Central

DOWNTOWN : Students Check In on Hotel Career Day

March 13, 1994|IRIS YOKOI

Dressed smartly in a maroon jacket with gold details, miniature hotel doorman Ivan Felix gleefully demonstrated that he had already mastered the Hyatt touch.

"It's fun," the fifth-grader said of his half-hour stint as a doorman at the Hyatt Regency. "I open doors for taxis, cars . . . and you make lots of money!" With that, Ivan pulled a dollar bill out of his pocket to show off his first tip.

Ivan and 27 of his classmates from Woodlawn Elementary School in Bell visited the hotel at 711 S. Hope St. Wednesday and took part in Hyatt's Career Day, during which youngsters learn what it is like to work at a hotel.

The Hyatt Hotels and Resorts initiated Career Day a few years ago as one way of reaching out to the community. Not all of the chain's hotels hold the event every year, but the Hyatt Regency Downtown has been an enthusiastic participant for the past three years.

"It's a learning day," said Chantal Mariotti, the hotel's director of human resources. "We want to get involved in education in the community. And the employees love it."

The program teaches about and encourages careers in the hotel industry while stressing "staying in school," Mariotti said.

For Woodlawn teacher Dolores Beltran, whose husband Philip works as a sous-chef at the hotel, the event provided an interesting way to teach her students, many of whom are immigrants who speak limited English, how to contribute to the community.

Upon their arrival, Mariotti provided a brief orientation. "Who has ever stayed in a hotel?" Mariotti asked the polite group. Two students shyly raised their hands.

When Mariotti asked what people do in a hotel, the students responded: "They watch TV, eat something, sleep. . . ." And "They go to honeymoon!"

"Absolutely," Mariotti said, as the children laughed. "A hotel is just like a city, and it's just like a house."

The students were then handed gold-bar name tags, which they could take home, and their pint-sized uniforms--replicas of the adult uniforms--sewn by the hotel seamstress. Using a list of student names, Mariotti two weeks ago randomly assigned each student to an employee--a cook, a desk clerk or even the general manager. Mariotti set a rule that tips collected by the junior employees must be pooled to pay for a pizza party later for all the students.

Student cooks Juan Ramon and Irayda Ileana learned another rule from executive sous-chef Sayed Moalemi: "In the kitchen, everyone has to have a uniform and a hat." Fitted with the tall chef hats, Juan and Irayda went to work dishing up food for a banquet. "Fifty-three plates!" said a smiling Juan.

Meanwhile, Martha Daysi and Raul Mercado helped room service waiter Rudy Borrayo collect trays left outside rooms by guests. Clad in short, light-green jackets, the three rode up the service elevator, stopping on each of the 20 floors.

After watching Borrayo gather the first few trays, Raul was ready to give it a try. He sped out of the elevator and down the hall to a tray laden with plates, glasses and a carafe. But the tray's weight made him stop and beckon Martha. The two came down the hall holding the tray between them, the picture of teamwork.

"They're looking for role models, and what they see at home is such a limited vision," said hotel General Manager Jerry Simmons, a former professional football player who himself worked his way up the Hyatt hierarchy from his first job as a part-time steward.

Other employees agreed that many adults do not know about hotel job opportunities. "More people need to come into hotels, especially from the inner cities," said Jessie Gayden, assistant director of catering. "People don't know these jobs are available."

But Simmons said he emphasized a more generic career tip as he showed a student around his office: "We stress fun--work should be fun--and that you should love what you do."

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