Succeed Through Service: The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company’s Pathway to Youth Engagement

December 17, 2013

By Sue Stephenson, Vice President, Community Footprints, The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company, LLC

Rapid urbanization is placing a great strain on many communities across the country, with a critical shortage in the availability of skilled workers to fill essential roles in manufacturing and other industries. For the city of tomorrow to thrive, be competitive, and develop a strong workforce, it is essential that we increase the number of students who graduate from high school and go on to acquire necessary skills through postsecondary education in the form of college, technical school, or apprenticeship programs.

Currently, one in four public school students drop out before they finish high school. For African-American and Hispanic students, the likelihood of graduating is closer to 50 percent. Many of these students don’t have access to positive role models, cannot envision a career, and don’t feel connected to their communities. Tragically, young people who drop out are much more likely to be unemployed, incarcerated, or live in poverty.

The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company launched Succeed Through Service, a pro bono skills-based volunteering program, to help prepare at-risk students for a successful future. The curriculum, which was developed in partnership with the children’s advocacy organization America’s Promise Alliance, pairs Ritz-Carlton employees with middle school students in low-income communities to teach them critical life and career skills while introducing them to the importance of giving back.

To support the creation of the systematic Succeed Through Service blueprint, The Ritz-Carlton leveraged the company’s embedded focus on training through its multicultural service and life-skills training curriculum, along with America’s Promise Alliance’s research materials and resources. Research identified that the curriculum would have the most impact if efforts focused on middle school students in low-income communities. The program is now deployed at 38 schools across the U.S. and has been culturally adapted and introduced at an additional 42 schools and children’s organizations around the world.

At the start of the school year, the students arrive at their Ritz-Carlton partner hotel, where they are welcomed by a “wall of applause” as they enter through the main lobby— reinforcing a message that the students are important and valued. The first phase of the program introduces the students to the critical aspects of workplace success with presentations that highlight the importance of hard work, commitment, and a positive attitude. Back in the classroom, Ritz-Carlton employees teach valuable life skills. For example, front desk and concierge employees engage the students on the importance of eye contact, a great smile, and a firm handshake; restaurant teams introduce dining etiquette; chefs teach the importance of Ritz-Carlton employees support students in planning community volunteer projects that tackle challenging issues such as homelessness, child literacy, and environmental conservation. As a result, students understand that their actions can benefit others and learn the value of giving back to their community. Succeed Through Service has already benefited more than 9,000 students. To enable Succeed Through Service healthy eating habits and how to safely handle food; and trainers coach students on effective collaboration and group presentation skills.

As we envision the city of tomorrow, it is key that its citizens are socially conscious and have the motivation to make a difference through civic responsibility. A key component of the Succeed Through Service curriculum introduces students to the importance of giving back. 

Ritz-Carlton employees support students in planning community volunteer projects that tackle challenging issues such as homelessness, child literacy, and environmental conservation. As a result, students understand that their actions can benefit others and learn the value of giving back to their community.

Succeed Through Service has already benefited more than 9,000 students. To enable Succeed Through Service to reach more students, the curriculum is being made available on a nonproprietary basis to other companies. This action was designed to encourage other businesses to support at-risk youth in their own communities and help shape the city of tomorrow.

[Editor's note: This article is part of The Role of Business in Shaping the City of Tomorrow report.]