Hotel Manager Leads Inclusively for Davis Center Students
Students from the Davis Center are chopping, squeezing, and dusting their way through the holidays thanks to a new employment partnership with the Hyatt Regency Tysons Corner this year. As part of the Hyatt team, eight Davis students are included in meetings, social events, and the day-to-day tasks of maintaining a high-end, busy hotel and restaurant in one of the nation’s premiere shopping areas.
Hyatt Regency manager Jon Davenhall has a professional and personal interest in helping the partnership succeed. His son is a tenth grader at Woodson High and, hopefully, will be part of the Davis Center employment programs one day.
“This partnership gives students an opportunity to experience learning a job, working with many different people—sometimes under stress—and being part of the overall successful guest experience for hotel clients. Our student employees work throughout the hotel and are a great asset to our team in every respect,” he said, adding, “I have high expectations of all of our employees.”
Davis students arrive each school day at around 10 a.m. and work in a variety of areas for the rest of the school day. On a recent visit, students prepared garnishes for holiday meal plates, assisted staff with linens, and helped tidy the hotel gym. Savannah, an outgoing young woman with a broad smile on her face, cheerfully added that she hoped to go into the food service industry for a career one day. Her favorite role in the robust, busy hotel kitchen? “Bacon,” she declared with a grin, referring to separating bacon and prepping it to be cooked.
Davenhall expressed that the arrangement has been a “boost” for his fulltime team. “The staff appreciates the hard-working, dedicated students,” he said, “It’s hard to remember how we got along without their contributions.”
According to research, meaningful employment engagement and work experiences are key to overall well-being. “Honestly, we don’t have a specific handbook for how this works,” explained Davis principal Chad Clayton. “But we know that these partnerships are creating meaningful connections, and in many cases, leading to opportunities and increased choices for students and families after graduation,” Clayton said.
“We are working closely with our teacher assigned to this program (Chris Hurlburt), and listening to natural feedback in the workplace, to help ensure this program is successful. We make sure to offer appropriate supports to help students overcome challenges and address the small details.”
Chad emphasizes the importance of such attention to detail and credits this with expansion of community employer partnerships. The program has grown from 96 to 170 Davis Center students in the last three years. Additionally, the number of employer partnerships grew from 22 to 31 and now includes students from 15 different high schools. Clayton stresses that helping these partnerships succeed is critical. “Programs like this at the Hyatt can influence other employers to hire individuals with special needs, too. They prove that inclusive hiring is a win-win for our community.”
“It’s time to bring people with intellectual disabilities out of the dark; to reach out and involve them with work and community experiences. How many of us started our careers in the service industry? I’d say, most of us,” said Davenhall. “ I’m incredibly proud to be part of a company that has made a such a strong commitment to provide capacity and experiences for individuals of ALL abilities.”
***Learn more about the Davis Center or National Inclusive Schools Week.