DOE’s Amazing Tourism Academy

Mufi Hannemann
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June 01, 2011 | Hawaiian Airlines Discount Share

Of the many challenges facing teachers, one is demonstrating to students the relationship between what they study in class and how to use that knowledge once they’ve left school.

The Department of Education’s Academy of Hospitality and Tourism makes that connection, using a combination of classroom curriculum with hands-on experience to stimulate learning and problem-solving skills, develop good work attitudes and even pave the way for a fulfilling career in the travel industry.

Six public schools in Hawaii have academies: Waipahu and McKinley on Oahu; Baldwin, Maui, and Lahainaluna on Maui, and Kauai on the Garden Isle.

I had the opportunity to meet the dynamic directors of two: Waipahu’s Todd Nakayama, during a visit for the program’s graduation, and Kauai’s Kathy Morishige, in conjunction with the Visitor Industry Charity Walk May 14 in Lihue.

These academies, among 155 nationwide, use a program from the American Hotel and Lodging Association. Locally, the Hawaii Hotel & Lodging Association provides support, while several hotels and tourism-related businesses offer internships, job shadowing and on-the-job involvement in event planning. The learning component has in-depth studies of the travel industry, with coursework in hospitality, communication, management, sales and marketing, food and beverage, event planning and community service. The work experience has the added benefit of creating networking and relationship-building opportunities.

Students can earn college credit upon completion of two national exams, or can receive a certification in several hotel-specific fields. The schools have sent students to represent Hawaii at national competitions sponsored by the American Hotel & Lodging Association. Waipahu placed fourth overall this school year, and first in the Knowledge Bowl competition. Members of the team were captain Richard Dean Danao, Karen Gail Galanto, Dulce Ramos and Kimberlyrose Garcia.

The Marauders’ Todd Nakayama has been recognized for his academic leadership, earning the AHLA’s national Lamp of Knowledge Award and the state’s Lodging Management Program Teacher of the Year honor, both in 2010.


Robin Zukeran

Position: Guest Services Representative

Location: Courtyard by Marriott Waikiki Beach

Island: Oahu

When it comes to making a good first impression, Robin Zukeran has no equal. The guest service representative at busy Courtyard by Marriott Waikiki Beach greets every guest with a warm smile, professional appearance and the aloha spirit.

Robin keeps up to date on hotel services and community events so he can share suggestions or answer questions from guests looking for something to do or somewhere to eat. Whether Robin is searching for lost items or mapping the best travel route, the people he’s helping feel like royalty. He’s befriended airline crews and is able to welcome them by name, and that approach to one and all has earned him plaudits reflected in Marriott’s guest satisfaction surveys.

Robin is an assistant scout master for a Boy Scout troop and coaches them on their sports activities, while also spending time with church and his son’s school activities.


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