Best Commitment to Education Finalist: The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company


Ritz-Carlton: Preparing Young People for a Brighter Future

One in four public school children in the United States dropout before completing high school. Ritz Carlton looks to helps every student graduate from high school through their Succeed Through Service program.

Overview

One in four public school children drop out before completing high school. For African-American and Hispanic students, the likelihood of graduating drops 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.

To help address the dropout crisis and better prepare young people for successful futures, The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company, a subsidiary of Marriott International, partnered with America’s Promise Alliance to create Succeed Through Service. The program engages Ritz-Carlton employees in mentoring and educating at-risk middle school students with the overarching goal of improving social outcomes.

What Ritz-Carlton Has Accomplished

Early in 2009, the company identified that there were multiple locally-developed examples of successful youth engagement programs at its hotels. The question was: how to scale these individual programs to create a brand-wide, systematic approach to youth engagement and mobilize employees in a more strategic manner to help address the nation’s dropout crisis? Ritz-Carlton chose America’s Promise Alliance as its partner to develop a strong curriculum to help at-risk students flourish.

A core curriculum was developed, leveraging the company’s embedded focus on training excellence defined by a multi-lingual, multi-cultural life-skills training curriculum. The result was the creation of the Succeed Through Service blueprint. The program was developed over a six-month period in line with Common Core Standards and received input, feedback, and counsel from educators and students in the existing pilot programs.

The comprehensive Succeed Through Service curriculum is deployed at 82 schools in low income communities.

At the beginning of the school year, the students and teachers visit their Ritz-Carlton partner hotel for the first phase of the program, where presentations from employees introduce students to the critical aspects of being successful in the workplace. The second phase takes place in the classroom throughout the school year, with front desk employees teaching the importance of eye-contact, a great smile and a firm handshake; restaurant staff demonstrating basic dining etiquette; chefs teaching students the importance of healthy eating habits and how to safely handle food; and trainers coaching students on job interview skills, and effective collaboration and group presentation skills.

During the final phase, students plan and execute a community volunteer project, tackling challenging issues such as homelessness and child literacy. This phase is linked to Global Youth Service Day in April. The students are invited to submit an application to the Succeed Through Service Student Challenge, where they showcase their community impact project and may be awarded a $1,000 grant.

To date, Succeed Through Service has reached 4,300 students in 2010/11 and 4,570 in 2012/13.

Why This Project Makes Sense

Succeed Through Service has already impacted more than 12,400 children and the pro-bono skills based volunteer program is a tremendous motivator of employee engagement. The program’s impact has resulted in The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company being recognized by Communities in Schools for “outstanding commitment to at-risk children.” The Ritz-Carlton President and COO, Hervé Humler, participated in a White House Education Summit as the representative for the hospitality industry. In addition, The Ritz-Carlton is engaged in the Clinton Global Initiative’s "Reconnecting Youth" Working Group to explore avenues to expand the impact of Succeed Through Service.

The company is currently working with the Superintendent of Georgia’s Public Schools, Dr. John Barge, and his team, on inserting Succeed Through Service into the curriculum in the state’s schools that serve low-income communities. This is an effort to engage businesses in urban and rural Georgia in the critical role of supporting at-risk students.

To further increase the program’s reach, The Ritz-Carlton has made the entire curriculum and supporting materials available on a “open source” non-proprietary basis to other companies—a catalyst to inspire other businesses to get involved in helping at-risk youth in their own community.

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