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At Your Service

Hospitality management class at Chantilly Academy prepares students for the real world.

Dwannal McGahee’s hospitality management class at The Chantilly Academy at Chantilly High offers students the opportunity to both study and work in the hospitality industry. As part of the class, students also take part in internships at local hotels.

“It’s the best class so far this year,” said Sang Park, a senior from Centreville High School.

CHANTILLY ACADEMY busses students from 16 schools to the program — an opportunity that provides students the chance to learn about engineering, scientific, health, and human services careers by allowing the students to combine course work with real-world experience.

The hospitality management class involves two days of schooling; students spend the other three days working as interns at the Holiday Inn Fair Oaks and Hilton Garden Inn in Fairfax.

“We deal with real customers and real questions,” said Ryan Michanczyk, a senior from Fairfax High School. “The employees treat us like we really belong there.”

Students in Hospitality Management work nine-week rotations in different parts of the hotels to gain a complete understanding of hotel operations. Rotations include front desk, account management, kitchen and catering, and housekeeping. Housekeeping, a much-discussed rotation, required the students to fold towels and clean sheets. “Nobody wants to do housekeeping,” said Park, “but Mr. McGahee said it’s the most important department in the hotel.”

“I want students to gain an appreciation for housekeeping,” said McGahee. “It’s a critical part of the hotel. If the rooms aren’t clean, the front desk can’t sell them.”

MCGAHEE, a first-year teacher at Chantilly Academy, has more than 16 years of experience in the hospitality industry. “I come from a family of educators,” said McGahee. “When I went off to college, my father suggested doing something different.”

Following his father’s advice, McGahee steered away from teaching and fell in love with human resources. To make ends meet after graduation, he took a bellboy position at a hotel, and when a human resources position opened up inside the hotel, he applied for and won the position.

Years later, while working at the Sheraton Premiere in Tysons Corner, McGahee worked with interns from Chantilly Academy. When he discovered that the current hospitality management teacher was retiring from the Academy, he jumped at the chance to return to his family’s roots.

“I love teaching,” said McGahee. “I love when the students get it, when the light bulb goes off in their head, and you know they’ve got it.”

MCGAHEE’S TEACHING has inspired at least one student to look towards hospitality management as a career. Max Michanczyk, Ryan’s twin brother, is attending Johnson and Wales University in South Carolina next fall. The University, known for its respected Hospitality College, also offers students the ability to work internships with local businesses while obtaining a degree. “I’ve always liked staying in hotels,” said Max Michanczyk. “I like traveling.”

Both brothers row in crew for Fairfax High School, and both are attending Johnson & Wales, though Ryan wants to major in sports management. Still, Ryan has enjoyed his hospitality management experiences.

“I like learning the ropes. We get to meet customers and help them out. And the people that work there are really friendly,” he said.

Students have spread the word about McGahee’s class, and next year’s classes are completely full. “This class is a living laboratory,” said McGahee. “It allows the students to do, see, feel, touch, and smell the hospitality industry. It’s a real experience for them.”