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Grand Rapids to open an academy of tourism and hospitality management for teens

Flickr user Ben W

Grand Rapids wants to get more young people of color to consider working in the hospitality and tourism industry. So the city’s public school system is opening an academy that focuses on this field.

The Academy of Hospitality and Tourism, which will be housed at Ottawa Hills High School in Grand Rapids, will be open to students starting next fall.

The academy will start with a class of 35 ninth graders. It will add students each year until it has ninth through 12th grades.

Students can apply for the academy online at the school district’s website. Applications are open until the end of January.

Darin Jemison, the Director of Food and Beverage at the Amway Grand Plaza in Grand Rapids and an Ottawa Hills alum, says he’d like to see more students of color begin to think about management positions in the hospitality industry.

“Instead of them always saying ‘Oh, I want to be a server or a bartender,’ why not say 'I want to be a restaurant manager or a GM,'” Jemison said.

Jemison, who has worked at the Amway hotel for 28 years, thinks this program fills a huge need in the city.

“Not only will these students have their foot in the door for jobs that are needed, these are some opportunities that might have never even occurred to these students as potential careers,” he said.

Ron Gorman, the Assistant Superintendent of GRPS, says the program will be looking for teachers who have experience in the industry.

“Because if we don’t have individuals with experience in hospitality and tourism, it’s just students learning from a book and we need much more than that,” Gorman said.

Grand Valley State University’s Department of Hospitality and Tourism Management is partnering with GRPS for this academy.

Bryce Huffman was Michigan Radio’s West Michigan Reporter and host of Same Same Different. He is currently a reporter for Bridge Detroit.
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