As a front-desk clerk at the Hyatt Fair Lakes, Rashmi Reddy, 10, helped check in guests, faxed things to people having business contracts and talked to engineers on walkie-talkies.
"The front desk was the heart of the hotel," she said. "I got to meet a lot of people."
Rashmi was one of a dozen fifth-graders from Greenbriar West Elementary participating, May 1, in the hotel's annual Camp Hyatt Career Day. Hyatt is the school's business partner, and the event enables students to learn firsthand about careers in the travel and tourism industry.
"There's so many things to know and memorize," said Rashmi. "But it was cool because we got an opportunity to see how these people really work in a hotel behind the scenes."
The hotel's employment manager, Patricia Zamora, said the students were "incredible — they understood what they were doing, and everything went well." The children chose the jobs they wanted to do and were accompanied by teachers Linda Rashidi and Marci Levi.
Trisha Cruz, 10, selected housekeeping. "We inspected rooms to make sure they were clean," she said. "It was really fun. You're busy most of the day because you have to walk around the whole hotel. I liked checking off things on a list that were OK or not acceptable about the rooms."
Elly Taura, 11, was a waitress, taking lunch orders and serving beverages. "Another lady told us what to get, and she carried it out for us," she said. "She told us to take plates from the left and serve from the right. Some people looked at us awkwardly because we were kids, but we just smiled and said hi."
Working as a sales manager was Ryan Pratt, 11. "We went to different rooms to see if they were good enough to be rented," he said. "The Presidential room is where the really important people stay. It had shoe polish, a Jacuzzi, king-size bed, PlayStation and DVDs. It was about four times the size of the other rooms, and people pay a lot of money for it — $400/night, and $600/night in summer."
He and the other sales and general managers had their own office. "We talked on the radio to the engineers and housekeepers and told them what was wrong," said Ryan. "We made a flier for a Mother's Day brunch and greeted people visiting. We had to say, 'Thank you for choosing Hyatt,' to the customers."
Stephen Mason, 10, was also a sales manager. "It was cool that we got to use the walkie-talkies and that we could go into the Presidential suite and see how big it was," he said. If he got to stay in it, said Stephen, he'd watch some DVDs.
Jessica Dunaye, 10, worked in room service. "We picked up trays from each floor and helped take food orders and bring them out," she said. "The hardest part was remembering which table wanted what — a lot of people wanted iced tea."
Kerem Atalay, 11, chose human resources. "We took pictures of the kids there that day [another school also participated] and made a banner for the May birthdays of the people working there and hung it in the employee cafeteria," he said. "Then we wrote on a board the guests' arrivals and departures and how many were spending the night."
Kerem also helped put up signs, in English and Spanish, in an employee area. He said some told how to handle stress and one said, "The customer is not always pleasant when angry, so try to be calm."
Dishing up a delicious lunch as a chef was Mitch Phillips, 10. "We made pizza and spaghetti and meatballs for all the kids," he said. "It was fun because we were doing a whole bunch of things at the same time. We made cookies, too — chocolate chip, raisin, peanut butter and vanilla. They had walls and walls of ovens."
He said refrigerators and freezers were in "big, gigantic rooms" and "we'd go in there to get ingredients and be shivering." Mitch liked that job a lot, he said, because "all the chefs and cooks were really nice and had a good time while they did their job." The hardest thing was "you couldn't just plop down the food on the plate — you had to place it in just the right way." The best part? "Tasting the food to test it — we ate a lot."
Also acting as chef was Sora Shin, 11, and she, too, enjoyed herself. "I liked making the pizza best because I got to put on as many pepperoni as I wanted," she said. But she agreed that arranging the food on the plates was no picnic. "I had to do it really fast," she said. "They kept handing me plates, and then I passed them to the next person." Although Sora would like to be a guest sometime at the Hyatt because "it was pretty and wonderful," she's hoping for a career as a fashion designer.
Jessica King, 12, was a caterer, helping plan the prom for Centreville High's Class of 2004. She also met with a future bride about her wedding. "She picked a room for the reception — a ballroom called the Commonwealth — and the honeymoon suite," said Jessica. "It was fun sitting in the employee lounge and talking to the caterers. And we met the chefs and managers to discuss the food for the reception."
She toured the hotel and typed dates of upcoming weddings, receptions and other events into a computer. She liked helping set up for a big event and telling people where to put the tables. Jessica said it would make a good career: "It doesn't seem too hard to do, and I liked meeting the customers — they were nice and friendly."
Serving as concierge was Nathan Williams, 11. He and others set up the room for the students' lunch, folding napkins and putting silverware and food onto the buffet table. "It was fun; I liked going to the kitchen to get the food," he said, adding that it tasted good, too.
"We had 40 people to set up for, so there was a lot to do," he explained. "We also put out sodas and water." Regarding career-day, said Nathan, "It's neat that they let us do that," but he hopes for a job with the FBI.
Brian O'Connell, 11, was the hotel engineer, and it appealed to him because "they get paid $14-20/hour." He fixed light bulbs and sinks and learned that "engineers are the only ones allowed to go everywhere in the building because sometimes it's dangerous where they're working, like on the roof."
He said they also check elevators and, "if it wasn't for the engineers, the whole place would fall apart." Brian, too, was wowed by the Presidential suite, and noted that it had two bathrooms — with a TV in one and two phones in the other. And, he added, the suite had "free candy." He said being there was "pretty great because it gave kids an opportunity to see how it is in the real world."