close this window

Lutgert College of Business in the News

This is the text and photos from a story in Southwest Spotlight News Magazine of June 30, 2013

A Buffet of Opportunities
D.K. Christi | June 30, 2013

Martha Perez and Sabrina Molano, Estero High School students, help Chef James prepare lunch during Hospitality Management Summer Bridge Program.
Staff |

FGCU – Ginger and garlic aromas filled the air at Florida Gulf Coast University’s Sugden Hall kitchen. Rising seniors from five area high schools chopped vegetables, stirred sauces, and folded filling into won tons. The calm voice and quick smile of FGCU Chef and adjunct instructor, James Fraser, M.Ed., Certified Executive Chef, kept eleven students engaged from preparation to filling the chafing dishes for their Chinese buffet.

“I’ve never prepared a meal for so many people. The vegetables had to be cut a special way. We were doing so many things at once,” said Martha Tinoco, a student at Estero High School’s Hospitality Academy.

Hyatt Hotels and Resorts funded the recent one week Hyatt High School Summer Bridge Program, hosted by FGCU School of Resort and Hospitality Management (RHM) and supported by hospitality industry partners.

Andrea Milarcik, Barron Collier student, loved being outdoors in the garden with all the beautiful fruits and vegetables. “The FGCU Food Forest (student-run botanical garden) is where I want to intern. I’ve never seen sugar cane, hacked it and cut it in smaller pieces.”

Milarcik also enjoyed the presenters’ inspiring stories that illustrate the hospitality industry as an umbrella for many careers.

“It’s a win-win,” said Joe Murgalo, General Manager, Hyatt Regency Coconut Point. “I am already involved in the hospitality programs at local high schools and Florida Gulf Coast University. We tell students about opportunities in the industry and they learn whether it’s the career for them.”

Chef James is assisted by high school student Vanessa Gill as Chris Murray looks on.
Staff |

Murgalo’s hospitality career began at fourteen, washing dishes at a banquet hall. After thirty years with the Hyatt, he considers his seven plus years at the Hyatt Regency Coconut Point his favorite.

“One of the things I like about the bridge program is that it is open to minorities and is a very diverse opportunity for lots of people to see what it’s like, a real-world experience,” said Martha Perez, Estero. “I think that’s what FGCU is about.”

Coordinator and assistant professor, Marcia Taylor, Ph.D., scheduled FGCU and hospitality industry leaders from the gamut of careers and hands-on industry experiences from tourism to entrepreneurship. Andy Ingraham, President, National Association of Black Hotel Owners, Operators and Developers, told students, “Be your own boss.”

Students enjoyed a taste of dorm life the first three nights at FGCU followed by two nights at the Hyatt Plantation.

“I liked meeting people from the industry, learning how they became involved and about their promotions. I started working at Publix at fourteen and hope it helps me get an internship at the Hyatt,” said Chris Murray, Estero High School student. He learned the difference between the Hyatt Plantation as a year-round timeshare and the Hyatt Regency Coconut Point as a resort hotel.

Sabrina Molano, student at Estero High School, had fun. “The discussions with experienced people provided someone else’s point of view. We had lots of hands-on, not just reading.”

Students practiced balancing their napkin, bread plate and water glass in their left hand to shake hands with their right as they sat down for their three course plated dinner at the Hyatt Regency Coconut Point. Nonnie Owens, certified etiquette instructor and former flight attendant, taught the etiquette session after the Hyatt staff presented “Dress for Success.”

“I’ve learned that working together overcomes challenges,” said Vanessa Gil, Barron Collier student. “The traveling appeals to me the most about the hospitality industry. Our speakers said, ‘Never give up.”

The participating high school students along with student volunteers from the FGCU RHM Program not only experienced the industry but also made important connections and forged new friendships for the future.

High school students prepare wontons for Chinese buffet during Summer Bridge Program at FGCU. Thomas Heins, Andrea Milarcek, Katherine Espinoza and Misa Scudder.
Staff |

close this window