Alexis Presto, age 18, is excited about completing the first ever 12-week Hospitality Career Academy, a program developed by Merced College in partnership with The Mainzer and El Capitan Hotel, which focuses on preparing students for careers in the growing hospitality industry. She graduated on December 6, 2021.
Presto told the Times, enthusiastically, “I learned about the Academy through school. I am a Business major at Merced College, and I will graduate in May with an AA degree and will be transferring to a four-year college in California. I really like to cook so I’ve always thought about going into the restaurant industry as a chef, and I thought this would be a great skill set to learn and I could also use it in my daily life in team building and working with other people.
“The classes were great. I honestly loved them so much. I learned so many things about myself and my attitude, how I think — we did multiple assessments about ourselves and how to work with others.
“There was a Stress Management class. We did exercises on how to de-stress, including breathing techniques. It included things you could use in your daily life. We, as students, could bring our own thoughts into it and mingle with the other students and talk about our own experiences. I loved the interactive aspect of it.
“An example of a Stress Management class activity was adult coloring used as a de-stressor to calm down and think about one thing at a time, instead of multiple things. Techniques were taught to build you as a person and help you in a difficult situation so you can be more flexible.
“We toured the El Cap Hotel and learned what they do there, and we saw what they do behind-the-scenes.
“We took an Unconscious Bias class, and this delved into our personal opinions and what we think when we first meet someone as opposed to what we think after we’ve gotten to know them. We worked on how to not judge people at first sight with stereotypes, but rather to have an open mind, and it emphasized thinking about what other people might be going through so we become less judgmental humans.
“We listened to guest speakers at The Mainzer, and we heard their perspective on things we learned based on their experiences working in the hospitality industry.
“We did group activities pertaining to customer service that taught how to interact with customers, and with each other in team building. Team building is a great exercise since everyone needs to learn and improve on how to interact with others.
“We watched a short film, ‘Fish’, which was about a fish processing plant where people came in and bought fresh fish, and the employees had fun with their career and they interacted in a good way with each other, sometimes tossing fish, and it was interesting to see how the people worked together and I thought that was a great addition to the curriculum.
“We took a personality assessment, which I found particularly helpful. What you learned showed you why you are the way you are. There were four different categories, and it was interesting evaluating which one we fit with. We talked about our strengths and weaknesses and things we could work on, and it pertained to our work life and family life.
“The classes teach such great skills that when the next Academy starts, I’m taking four classes which are additions to the first Academy.
“When the classes were completed, I really enjoyed the Career Interview Day. There were different booths where we could meet with potential employers in the hospitality industry. They talked about their businesses, openings they had for job seekers, and they were open to doing interviews and further talks. We were able to go over the skills and things we learned.
“I’m not currently employed, but if I was looking for a job, because of the connections and the Career Interview Day, I think I would be able to get a job. I do know people I took the class with who were able to get a job because of this Academy.”