Fleming Island students learning skills in vital hospitality field

By Nick Blank nick@claytodayonline.com
Posted 1/19/22

FLEMING ISLAND – Whether it’s event planning, restaurants or hotels, Fleming Island High is giving students a leg up in the hospitality and tourism industry.

Unique to Fleming Island High, its …

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Fleming Island students learning skills in vital hospitality field

Posted

FLEMING ISLAND – Whether it’s event planning, restaurants or hotels, Fleming Island High is giving students a leg up in the hospitality and tourism industry.

Unique to Fleming Island High, its hospitality and tourism career and technical education program walks students through four years of the field. They plan a mock wedding in the spring and get behind-the-scenes tours of hotels and theme parks. The students also assist with the Clay County Fair, the Clay County Tourism and Development department and the Town of Orange Park.

Michelle Harris, the school’s career specialist, said cruises are a mainstay of the program, but COVID-19 has impacted field trips. However, the department makes it work.

“We have several of the hotels in the area to do career shadowing,” Harris said. “We have terrific business partners and terrific opportunities for these kids.”

The CTE programs are there to help students figure out what they want or don’t want to do. The school is currently in the process of visiting local junior high schools and informing them about the programs.

“Ultimately, these kids are going to have to make a decision in February about the courses they’re going to take next year,” Harris said.

Instructor and department head Laura Kirk said the mock wedding uses several CTE programs like photography and digital design. Throughout the four years in the program, students learn about managing hotels and restaurants, the technology in the industry, business and professional marketing and seek intern and volunteer opportunities.

Kirk said students were supposed to be coming back from a cruise this weekend.

“Next year we’ll try and do one,” she said. “We try to get them overseas and traveling because that’s important.”

She said Florida is a unique state and receives hundreds of billions of dollars generated by tourism each year.

”Hospitality is everywhere you look. (The program) gives the kids more real-world experience,” Kirk said. “It’s a lot of work, but it’s fun.”

For the 2022-2023 school year, the school is expanding its CTE programs to building and construction design. Harris said the school has sought more trades for a while, and staff is excited.

“You have to change your curriculum to suit your students,” Harris added. “What are their interests? What are they going to go into? The country has changed, kids aren’t going straight to college. They’re getting trade skills.”

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