Are you interested in participating in a life-altering, career-launching experience like The Hospitality Careers Academy? Learn about HCA through the eyes of a camper as they plan and execute one of The Classic Center Cultural Foundation’s biggest events, Celebration of the Arts, while having fun and learning about hospitality from top industry professionals.
Sunday, July 25
I can’t believe I’m finally here! After submitting my application, interviewing with Mr. Shannon and Ms. Amy, and keeping my fingers crossed for weeks, I’m finally in Athens to start the coolest summer camp ever. I see the green awning in front of The Classic Center and wave nervously to the staff as they help carry my suitcase inside. My parents leave, and I chat with other campers as they trickle inside. They are from all over the state – one’s even from Tennessee.
Once all eight of us arrive, we head into a conference room and play a crazy game of musical shoes – trust me, it’s hard to explain, but we had a blast and laughed like old friends. We get to pick our roles for the week, and I choose marketing. The other campers choose Banquet Manager, Event Planner, General Manager, Technical Director, and Culinary. After we get paired with our mentors for the week, we get to hear a presentation from our client, the Director of The Classic Center Cultural Foundation, to learn all about the event we’ll be putting on – Celebration of the Arts. Let the planning begin!
Oh, I almost forgot! We had dinner with Levy and learned all about hospitality dining etiquette. I’ll never mix up my forks again.
Monday, July 26
My roommate and I get a wake-up call from one of the mentors at 7:00 a.m., and we head down to breakfast in the Hyatt. Afterwards, we walk over to The Classic Center through the attached parking garage. It made changing and breaks so easy all week.
We get split up among the different departments at The Classic Center for a morning of job shadowing. It’s such a big building, and there’s so much to learn about hospitality. I visited with the sales department and learned how to prospect and book clients, and my roommate went with operations and saw all of the behind-the-scenes nooks in the building.
We get to listen to speakers while we eat lunch and then break up for project time. The “departments” are different tables in the room, and my mentor and I start working with The Classic Center’s graphic designer on theme design. The Event Planner and General Manager met with us to give their vision, and then we start getting creative with how to bring it to life.
After project time, we dressed up and went out to dinner at The 5 & 10. It was delicious, and the chef let us see the kitchen!
Tuesday, July 27
First thing after breakfast, we get to brief the client, The Classic Center Cultural Foundation. The campers take the lead, and we set the stage for our 1920’s-themed vision: guests walk into the building with a hallway staged as an old timey museum, then they enter a small, semi-hidden room featuring a champagne fountain that will be our speakeasy, before finally walking into the grand ballroom for the main event. She loves it, so it’s time to get to work!
The catering team has decided on their themed menu, so I get to help the graphic designer create the printed version. I pull examples of 1920’s pictures and colors so that she can see my ideas. We also decide to put the drink tickets for the event on invitations into the “speakeasy” that one of the campers will sneakily pass out as guests arrive to complete the illusion of gangster 1920’s New York.
After we head to HR for mock interviews, it’s time to go to dinner at DePalma’s to get any new feedback from our client. She was helpful in making us think about little details, like what a vegetarian option would be on the menu. I’m learning so much about events, but also how to think like a professional.
Wednesday, July 28
We start the day by working on our speeches for Celebration then listen to a presentation by a local entrepreneur before more project time. While we get to go into storage to see if any old decorations can be used, the Banquet Manager works on table setting and flow, the Event Planner goes to a warehouse to pick up props, and the Chefs start whipping up sample meals.
Guess what we found in storage? Huge columns! Those will make the perfect entry to our “museum” once we design a banner to hang between them. I send an email to our client to show her all of our designs; once she approves them, we send them off for printing and wait for our masterpieces to come back.
While we wait, we start working on the slideshow presentation for Celebration. I get to work with the Technical Director to match our slides with his script and the production cues. After that, we help the other campers hang lights, decorate tables, and prep for a dress rehearsal where all of that the Cultural Foundation scholarship winners will perform. We work late that night then head to bed.
Thursday, July 28
Today’s the big day – Celebration of the Arts! Athens Printing Company and Fastsigns bring all of the final props and help us install them. The General Director’s mentor managed to borrow a genuine 1920’s car, and they park it in the building! It’s crazy to see all of the work we’ve done over the whirlwind of the last few days come together. Everyone helps each other out, and it’s starting to feel real that an audience will see our work. After a full day of finishing touches, we change into our 1920’s fedoras and feather headbands, then open the doors. Everyone “oohs” and “awws” as they come inside. We see the client, guests, and our parents file inside and admire our handiwork. I pass out flashdrives that I made for all of the students with everyone’s work included, like room diagrams, stage cues, menu, and graphic designs, so that everyone has a portfolio to take home. We get a table right at the front so that after our speeches we can eat the food that our catering campers created – at the end of the night one of them is even offered a job! This has without a doubt been the most exhausting week of my life, but I wouldn’t trade it for the world.
Are you interested in participating in a life-altering, career-launching experience like this one? This year's HCA application deadline has passed, but check back for the HCA 2023 dates.