The Student News Site of Monta Vista High School

El Estoque

The Student News Site of Monta Vista High School

El Estoque

The Student News Site of Monta Vista High School

El Estoque

Journey to New York

Four juniors win an international hospitality competition.

It was 2 a.m. in Orlando, Fla. Juniors Emily Hong, Michelle Li, Sonal Patel and Bella Zhang were hunched over their laptops, vigorously typing away. They were in the midst of planning a mock wedding reception, and there were only a few hours before their presentation in front of a panel of judges.

The team was in Orlando from April 10 to 12 to partake in a Lodging and Management High School International Competition. A first-place achievement there would win them a trip in November to the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in New York City and an opportunity to meet leaders in the hospitality industry. Established in 2004, the Lodging Management Program’s High School International Competition division showcases the knowledge and skills of high school hospitality students. This year, teams from the Andros Bahamas, Guam, Wyoming, New Providence Bahamas, Washington DC, Pennsylvania, New Hampshire, Hawaii and Florida took part in the competition.

In October of 2012, business teacher Carl Schmidt opened up the idea of participating in the international competition to all his business classes and clubs such as DECA and FBLA.

However, before entering the competition, Schmidt needed to assemble a team of four students.

Hong and Li found out about the competition through Schmidt’s sixth period marketing class, while Patel and Zhang became aware of it through DECA. Since they were all interested in hospitality and marketing, they decided to sign up for the qualifying test.

The four girls took an initial qualifying multiple choice hospitality test and were later contacted because of their high scores to join the team and compete in Orlando.

According to the FUHSD website, this was the first entry from a California high school into this competition.

The team met on a Saturday afternoon for the first time in January. They were given the competition manual, which contained all the information they would be tested on, and three additional books that would help them gain a better understanding of the fundamentals of the entire hospitality industry.

Because there was so much reading to be completed in three months, they split up the work and did additional individual research. Furthermore, they visited the Doubletree Hotel to interview the manager and receive a personal tour of the facilities.

“We did a lot of studying for the competition, and some hands-on activities,” Patel said. “I remember practicing with the team and recording ourselves to practice for our case studies, in which we are given a problem and are expected to solve it completely and satisfactorily.”

After months of preparation on Saturday afternoons, the four girls flew to Orlando in April to partake in the competition.

The competition consisted of three components. During the competition, the girls competed in a Jeopardy-style trivia contest as well as an accounting contest, where they demonstrated their knowledge of credits, debits, liabilities, assets and balance sheets. During an evening session, they checked hotel rooms for correct preparation. Contest organizers purposely “messed up” ten aspects of room preparation, such as forgetting to provide towels and not straightening out the bed sheets. The girls had to identify the ten errors and explain the mistakes. The last part of the competition was the planning and presentation of a wedding and reception,which the girls needed to design in the time span of only several hours.

After two full days of competition, the results were announced at an awards ceremony held at the Epcot Center. The team won second in the Jeopardy-style “Knowledge Bowl,” but first in the “Hotel Operations” overall category, which was weighted more, thus winning first overall.

All four students visited the state capital on May 20 to receive recognition for their first-place achievement.

“It was such an amazing experience standing in the middle of the [California House of Representatives] floor,” Li said. “We even got to meet with [Assemblyman] Paul Fong, who congratulated us on promoting career and technical education in high school.”

This November, Hong, Li, Patel and Zhang attended the American Hotel and Lodging Association Fall Conference, which will feature some of the most prominent leaders of the hospitality industry. According to Li, the team of four stayed at the renowned Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in New York with over 20,000 experts, hoteliers, designers and vendors.

Before embarking on the New York trip, Li said, “I’m definitely looking forward to New York. It’s pretty much a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. When else would you get to meet the presidents and CEOs of hotel chains and founders of huge hospitality empires?”

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