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Valley High School Students Benefit from DPIE-Sponsored Workforce Boot Camp

January 20, 2015

Valley High School presentationA group of junior and senior level students at Valley High School are currently embarking on a journey – before they even graduate. Thanks to a collaboration between the Dublin Partners in Education (DPIE) and Valley High School, these students are being exposed to a myriad of career opportunities. Two times a week – after school, these students have committed themselves to attending a GearUP session in the school library. The hour-long sessions explores a wide variety of career options post-high school graduation. The Dublin Unified School District (DUSD) has maintained a “mantra” of delivering students that are both college or career ready. The GearUP program clearly represents the opportunity to educate some of its students about career possibilities.

Thanks to the invitation by Valley High School Counselor, Liz Buckley, we were able to observe a recent session on Thursday. The subject for this day was a career in the hospitality/food service industry. The guest speaker was the current General Manager at the Hyatt House property in Pleasanton, Ms. Marlene Fahrenkrog.

Marlene candidly shared her personal story. By her own admission, she was not a superlative high school student and had to work into the summer to complete her high school diploma. She attended college, but did not ultimately finish her degree. In the meantime, she moved to Northern California and started a family. While she had not fully formulated her career desires, she attained employment with the Marriott hotel chain and worked at the front desk. She immediately knew that this role would meet her passion of helping people. This led to many other opportunities within the hospitality industry – including roles in the sales segment. Ultimately, this has led into her current role as the General Manager of the Hyatt House property in the Hacienda Business Park in Pleasanton. It is a career that has spanned 23 years.

Campbell, Fahrenkrog, Buckley

Campbell, Fahrenkrog, Buckley

Ms. Fahrenkrog’s message clearly resonated with the students. There were many questions centered on the career advancement opportunities within the hospitality industry. Marlene made two points very clearly. Because the hospitality industry tends to promote from within, it is critical to work very hard and to demonstrate both flexibility and versatility. Secondly, employees that share the willingness to relocate may have added opportunities to expand their careers both domestically and abroad. Of course, this career path many not be for everyone. She went on to emphasize that the key traits for success in this space were a passion for customer service and the love of interacting with people.

At the end of the day, her message was clear. There is a future for people interested in the hospitality sector and the ability to cultivate a long-term career continues to be evident. We asked Marlene to share some of her career insights. Please explain how you were invited to participate in the GearUP program and why do you feel that it is important. 

Marlene Fahrenkrog: “Liz knew of my history and my journey in getting to my position/level in the hotel industry and thought that I might be able to relate well to the students at Valley High School.  I think that GearUp is a fantastic program for these kids and will open up their world to so many career options that they may have never even thought of before.  I also think it’s important to show these kids that people care about them and support them in their growth and development in the local community.” As a younger person, you may not have targeted the hospitality industry – however, it has now become your career. Please articulate why this may be a positive option for those that may hold great potential in this space.

Fahrenkrog: “I feel that the hospitality industry has so many avenues for young people to explore – from sales to operations – there is something for everyone.  There is opportunity to travel the world and relocate anywhere as there are hotels all over the world.” During the session, you had mentioned that one’s ability and willingness to relocate might benefit those in hospitality. Kindly share what some of those benefits may represent.

Fahrenkrog: “The ability to relocate in the hospitality industry in order to promote into other positions makes a person more marketable and increases the speed to moving into upper management positions.”

The GearUP program was launched in January of this year. The intent was to sustain an ongoing series throughout the first quarter of 2015. Throughout the next two months, it will feature speakers on the varied topics of work ethics, networking, banking, health care, resume writing and mock interviews. This robust program would not be possible without community partners. In this case, the primary sponsors of GearUP are grants from Braddock and Logan, Chevron and DPIE. On Thursday, DPIE Executive Director, Susan Campbell was present. She graciously offered her thoughts on the program. Please describe the process upon why/how DPIE became a sponsor of GearUP – a pilot program with the steady input of the students.

Susan Campbell: “After three years of fairly comprehensive work with Valley students, it became apparent from listening to student stories that the students most in need of a career path, yet the least prepared to work right out of high school were Valley students. Stories about helping to support struggling families and trying to move other relatives to the Tri-Valley, away from the gangs, was quite compelling. These students needed the support a program like GearUP, a Workforce Boot Camp, can offer.

“How to make it happen came from viewing a video of a program in New York City designed for college age students with the same need.  Our concept grew from their success. We changed our age group to reflect our current need, and established contacts within the business community to help fund it and teach it. GearUP was designed to assist students still in high school to consider work other than Taco Bell and KFC upon graduation. Inspiring them to want more and training them how to achieve represents the mission and values of this program. While we are currently in pilot stage with a small group from Valley, the goal is to be able to offer this program at both DHS and Valley.  Many of our students have the ability to accomplish and they just need to find the right path.” Why is it important for DPIE to partner with Valley High School? DPIE and Valley High School appear to have a great relationship.

Campbell: “DPIE finds funding to support Valley High Challenge Day and has been instrumental in the process of putting together the GearUP program. DPIE has been involved in the program for several reasons. First it fits into one of our Pillars of Care: Career Exploration. Secondly, it is very important to the DPIE Board of Directors to have a strong presence in the Dublin Unified School District and this program will expand to at Valley High and Dublin High in the future. Thirdly, we want to make a difference and support all of the students in the District. For me, the importance lies in the relationships. It is essential for the students to get to know the wonderful and supportive community they live in and for the community it is significant for them to be introduced to a fantastic and motivated group of students at Valley High.” Explain how you and your colleagues have pooled your resources to help ensure the success of this program.

Campbell: “DPIE is fortunate to have an excellent Board of Directors. Within the Board we have a dedicated Programs Committee. Two of these members have stepped up and have not only contributed time and talent in obtaining various members of the community to share the wealth of their experiences, but they have also contributed their own talents as speakers for the group. Case in point – Board Member Chris Bennett shared her expertise by having the students explore and assess their skills and achievements. Each student listed what they thought were their accomplishments in life to date, and matched them to what they perceived to be their levels of mastery and what they love to do the most.

“Another Board Member, Amy Miller has been a dedicated person for our outreach into the community for partners to share their experiences. She connected with Greg Clark, an ex- 49er, Dublin resident and motivational speaker to do our kick-off on January 6, 2015. He mesmerized our group with his stories of fumbles and name calling from the press. Then forged ahead with his “Effort Knocks Down Barriers” and finished with a video of him catching many Steve Young passes for touchdowns.

“Amy Miller is our guest speaker on Career and Educational Goals and has obtained speakers for our Construction Trades and Utilities. Both Chris and Amy along with Liz have been instrumental in all phases of planning and implementation. Liz Buckley is the glue of this program. She knows the students and she knows how to inspire them. She has forged ahead to make this program a reality. DPIE and Valley are now in the process of getting more funding and finding internships for this great group of students. The program will culminate with the students formulated their resumes, doing mock interviews and finally interview for an internship.”

So, in the next dozen weeks, the GearUP program will continue to flourish as Valley High School. would like to commend all of those associated with this program, in particular the primary sponsors: Chevron, Braddock & Logan and DPIE. And, in the words of the General Manager of the Hyatt House, Marlene Fahrenkrog “Whatever you choose to do, you’ll need to work hard to advance. But, you can have so much fun along the way.”


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