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AHLA Foundation bolsters effort to address labor shortage through empowering youth program

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50 Opportunity Youth in Los Angeles, New Orleans, Orlando placed on fast track for jobs in hotel industry.

WASHINGTON – The American Hotel & Lodging Foundation (AHLA Foundation) announced that more than 50 individuals from traditionally underserved populations have graduated from the Empowering Youth Program (EYP) nationwide and are securing jobs in the hotel industry.

This year, the Foundation awarded $175,000 in total to community-based organizations throughout Los Angeles, Orlando, New Orleans and Washington, D.C. that help change the lives of Opportunity Youth between the ages of 16-24 by preparing them for future careers in hospitality. With a multitude of graduates completing the program from Los Angeles LGBT Center, Pathlight HOME, Café Reconcile and Second Harvest Food Bank of Central Florida, these students enhanced their expertise by acquiring either the Certified Kitchen Cook or Certified Guest Service Professional certification. Post-graduation, the program teams up with hotel employers to place the recent graduates into hospitality jobs.

“These graduates worked hard to earn their certification and we’re thrilled to match them with employers who will help them succeed and find a lifelong career in the hotel industry,” said Rosanna Maietta, president and CEO of the AHLA Foundation. “Our Empowering Youth program is incredibly rewarding and we’re so grateful to our community partners who nurture these talented individuals through the program. We’re so proud of their work and excited to watch them rise through the ranks."

“We are so proud of our 33 youth who graduated from the program since our last in-person graduation in January 2020,” said Los Angeles LGBT Center Executive Director Joe Hollendoner. “These graduates are extra special because in addition to completing the program during the pandemic, they also helped to ensure we kept the kitchen producing vital meals for our community.”

“Pathlight HOME’s philosophy is that we are there to give our participants key training and services to help them get back into society,” said Pathlight HOME President Babette Allen. “We are incredibly proud of our graduates, and we are looking to employ them and give them those employability skills.”

“New Orleans is the perfect backdrop for the Empowering Youth Program. We are a hospitality city, and there are countless opportunities for our graduates to commence their careers,” said Café Reconcile Executive Director Gerald Duhon. “We observed our Empowering Youth Program graduates blossom into full-fledged professionals, and we know they have bright futures ahead of them.”

“We are so proud of our past and current graduates at Second Harvest,” said Second Harvest Food Bank of Central Florida CEO Derrick Chubbs. “There is a great need for skilled workers in hospitality, and I am confident that our graduates will help provide the industry the boost it deserves.”

Four of the recent graduates – Zachary, Michelle, Queenxiaoli and Stephen – are also recipients of the Presidential Scholarship as part of a generous grant through the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation. Currently, these students are studying to earn their associate degrees from Los Angeles City College. This funding is part of a $1 million grant from the Hilton Foundation targeted towards attracting, preparing, and retaining Opportunity Youth for careers in the hospitality industry through AHLA Foundation programming.

Reinvigorated in 2021, EYP recruits and prepares young talent for entry-level hotel positions. The program focuses on Opportunity Youth, young adults who are out of school and unemployed but have the desire and resilience to success in the workplace. With the help of local community-based organizations, the initiative nurtures and develops program participants with the training, tools and support that will lead to permanent careers in hospitality.

By equipping Opportunity Youth with professional tools and trainings, EYP provides its participants with the skills required to succeed and advance in the hotel industry. With the pandemic wiping out approximately 10 years of job growth since 2020, this program performs a critical role to augment the workforce with fresh talent.

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