Tech School’s Popular Hospitality Program Gets OCHMRA Donation

NEWARK – Officials with the Ocean City Hotel-Motel-Restaurant Association (OCHMRA) contributed $5,000 to Worcester Technical High School’s (WTHS) Hospitality and Tourism Management program last week.

Susan Jones, executive director for the OCHMRA, said this donation will be the association’s first reoccurring contribution to the school’s program since its formation in recent years.

Prior to the program’s genesis, Jones said the OCHMRA and the Maryland Hotel and Lodging Association partnered to present the school system with curriculum plans for a new course at the technical school, a proposal which was introduced during Dr. Jon Andes’s tenure as superintendent of Worcester County schools.

The cumulative efforts of both associations led the school system to establish the Hospitality and Tourism Management program four years ago, using curriculum from the American Hotel and Lodging Association.

In addition to their efforts, Jones said the OCHMRA has given smaller donations to the program in the past two years, but has since decided to support the program on an annual basis.

“This past December when our association was finalizing the 2017 budget, we decided it was time that we put a financial line item for annual funding to the program,” she said.

The Hospitality and Tourism Management program has grown exponentially in recent years, according to Caroline Bloxom, principal at WTHS. The class has gone from six to 25 students in four years’ time.

She said other programs have 16 to 20 students, but added that interest in the hospitality program has exceeded all other cohorts in the school.

“The association has been a supportive partner of the program since it began four years ago,” Bloxom said. “This large donation gives an opportunity for students enrolled in the program. For instance, this year’s seniors are currently in Florida for four days participating in Disney World’s Underground Key to the Kingdom Tour and other hospitality and tourism behind-the-scenes tours. Mrs. Caitlin Evans, the program’s teacher, is excited to cultivate interest and prepare students for careers in Worcester County’s extensive hospitality and tourism industry.”

Jones attributes the success and growth of the program to Evans, who was also a recipient of an OCHMRA college scholarship in 2006.

“In 2006, Caitlin was the recipient of our [University of Maryland Eastern Shore] scholarship, so we are thrilled that she is leading the high school program,” Jones said. “Upon graduation from UMES, Caitlin went into the hospitality industry and opened up the Courtyard Marriott on 15th Street, so she is well versed in the subject.”

In years past, the OCHMRA have provided scholarships for University of Maryland Eastern Shore and Wor-Wic Community College students of the Hotel and Restaurant Management programs.

The recent donation marks the beginning of another relationship between the OCHMRA and a local hospitality program, according to Jones.

“With Ocean City’s economy being driven by tourism, we must do all we can as a community to protect the industry,” Jones said. “One way is to grow and develop our workforce. WTHS teaches skills that are used every day in our hospitality world. So our goal in supporting this program is to help nurture and develop the workforce.”

Worcester Technical High School is for students enrolled at Stephen Decatur, Snow Hill and Pocomoke high schools looking to pursue a career certification or college preparation through additional course offerings. The Hospitality and Tourism Management program is one of 19 offered at WTHS.

About The Author: Bethany Hooper

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Bethany Hooper has been with The Dispatch since 2016. She currently covers various general stories. Hooper graduated from Stephen Decatur High School in 2012 and the University of Maryland in 2016, where she completed double majors in journalism and economics.