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Students Check Out Hotel Career Day


Dressed smartly in a maroon jacket with gold details, diminutive 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 from his pocket to show off his first tip.

Ivan and 27 classmates from Woodlawn Elementary School in Bell took part last week 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. The Hyatt Regency in Downtown Los Angeles 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 a unique way to teach her students--many of them immigrants who speak limited English--how to contribute to the community.

Upon their arrival, Mariotti provided a brief orientation.

The students were then handed gold-bar name tags, which they could take home, and their pint-size uniforms--replicas of the adult uniforms--sewn by the hotel seamstress. Using a list of student names, Mariotti assigned each student in advance 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.

"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 worked his way up the Hyatt hierarchy from his first job as a part-time steward.

Simmons offered a 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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