By RON FANFAIR
It’s never too late to learn or return to the classroom.
Inspired by her son’s academic success, married mother Winsome Hooper is set to graduate with an associate degree in hospitality management from Jamaica’s Western Hospitality Institute (WHI).
When Anthony Hooper completed the travel & tourism management program at Northern Caribbean University (NCU) last year, mom decided it was time to go back to school.
“I provided him with a lot of assistance with his school work while he was in university, so I figured I might as well get certified,” said Hooper, a guest services manager for the last 16 years at the Holiday Inn Resort Montego Bay.
With her vast experience in the tourism & travel industry, Hooper entered the program as a mature student through the prior learning assessment process that recognizes work experience and other related skills gained outside a traditional classroom.
As a result, she will secure her certification in one year.
For the last decade, final-year students enrolled in WHI’s accredited associate degree in culinary chef management and Bachelor’s in hospitality & tourism management programs have been coming to Toronto to pursue the practical section.
Previously, they spent eight weeks engaged in a syllabus that included research management marketing matrixes and applications, financial planning and management, hotel/resort development, paradigm shift and future trends and French as a second language.
They are also required to put on a travel and trade exposition to sell Jamaica as a destination and a product.
The students now spend just two weeks in Toronto planning and executing the show that was held last Thursday at Seneca College which signed a Memorandum of Understanding with WHI seven years ago.
Hooper was among 11 final-year students that made the trip to complete the degree program’s last project.
“This is a fantastic opportunity for us to promote brand Jamaica,” she said. “It’s my first time coming to Canada and I am delighted to be given the opportunity to be here to do something to boost my country.”
The 1990 graduate of West Indies College High School in Mandeville is relishing a third career.
Dropping out of NCU’s Bachelor’s in Nursing program in the second year for personal reasons, Hooper taught at a preparatory school for 18 months before entering the hotel sector.
“I was no longer enjoying teaching, so I went into the hotel industry and started as a waitress which was the only job available at the time,” she said. “Within six months, I was promoted to work in the front office and I am still there and loving it.”
Nickoy Mills has been a night auditor for the last six years at the same hotel that employs Hooper.
His first visit to Canada was extremely fulfilling.
“It was such a great opportunity to be part of a team working together to sell all that’s good about Jamaica to a very diverse audience in a large North American city,” said Mills who joined the hotel industry 15 years ago and aspires to be a hotel manager.
He said the WHI program has provided him with the tools necessary to flourish as a leader in the industry.
“My public speaking and professional development skills along with my confidence have been enhanced to the point where I know I can succeed at the management level where I want to be,” said Mills.
A sales co-ordinator specializing in wedding planning at Sunscape Splash Montego Bay, Shelly Kelly said she has acquired skills that will help her in the transition to mass communications.
Dr. Cecil Cornwall established WHI 28 years ago to provide culinary skills training and tourism programs to Jamaicans, many of whom didn’t have the qualifications to access tertiary education in the country.
Jahraski Young, a WHI graduate, succeeded Cornwall as the institute’s principal.
“The students in our programs are ambassadors of the tourism industry,” said Young who was a waiter and bartender in the hotel industry. “We are looking for leaders to enhance the sector.”
He said Toronto is an ideal international destination for enhancing the students’ professional and personal development.
“We could have gone to many other places, but Toronto is a large and diverse city which is ideal for our students,” said Young.
The graduates are expected to fill management positions in Jamaica’s growing tourism sector.