Disabled students complete new hospitality training program

9:07 PM, Mar 9, 2012   |    comments
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"It's really hard for me to learn things," Pointon said. "But here I learned it the third day I was here."

They are signed up for the Hands On Educational Services Program. It takes students with mild to moderate mental or physical disabilities and teaches them a trade that could lead to a possible career.

"What we're trying to do is to prepare these young people for employment in the hospitality industry," John Ficca, program director for Hands On Educational Services, said.

Hands On started in 1998 in Tampa, Fla. This is the first program run in Colorado.

Esparza spent time learning to work in the kitchen of the Hyatt Regency Convention Center.

"When I first knew I was going to work in the kitchen, I was so scared because they are so fast and quick," Esparza said.

Through a 20-hour training program and two full weeks of paid work at the Hyatt, Esparza learned a job and learned to have confidence.

"Before, I was scared to take other jobs 'cause I think I wouldn't be able to do it," Esparza said. "But, taking this, it made me feel good. So, I think I can do anything now."

Pointon was learning how to work in a restaurant at the Hyatt. She is a hostess now, but she wants to learn all facets of the restaurant business.

"The first time I actually got to seat people, I was embarrassed," Pointon said. "It was just overwhelming because I never thought I would actually get to do this."

Friday afternoon, Pointon and Esparza graduated from the Hands On Program. They each completed 100 hours of coursework.

"They had so much patience with me and I appreciate them for that," Esparza said.

Students also graduated from programs at the Hyatt Regency Tech Center and the Grand Hyatt in downtown Denver. The program was sponsored by Hyatt Hotels of Denver and by the Division of Vocational Rehabilitation.

"Hyatt is not obligated to hire any of our trainees, but every property has hired at least one," Ficca said.

Pointon was told Friday that the restaurant wanted to hire her permanently.

"It's very easy for to take a graduate and place them to a job in any hotel or restaurant," Ficca said.

He hopes to work with more Colorado school districts and expand the program even further next year.

Pointon says it has changed her life.

"I have to wake up at six o'clock in the morning," Pointon said. "I actually want to come here. It's pretty cool."

(KUSA-TV © 2012 Multimedia Holdings Corporation)

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