Since 1982, students in high-need communities across the country have been offered unique educational experiences through NAF. NAF gives high school students access to focused learning career training that can be integrated with curriculums, allowing participants to experience real-world opportunities such as job shadowing and internships. The program also exposes high school students to potential employers, career options, and experiences in industries they might not otherwise have access to.
In the years following NAF’s launch—at which point the organization only offered finance education—its programs have expanded, adding new concentrations, which NAF calls “themes,” in a number of different industries, including tourism and hospitality. Now, there are 644 NAF academies across 36 states. 90 of those are NAF Academies of Hospitality & Tourism, a theme which recently celebrated its 30th anniversary. There are NAF Hospitality & Tourism programs in 21 different states serving 12,000 students.
Lisa Dughi, chief operating officer at NAF, says that the academies are successful because they are designed so that the educational experience can be tailored to the local community and its needs. “We involve local businesses so that we can really create a curriculum specifically tailored to the area,” she says.
Students enrolled in NAF’s Hospitality & Tourism program learn about topics such as event planning, guest and culinary services, and customer service and tourism. Guest speakers such as the general managers of local hotels come in and speak to students. Dughi adds that each lesson is carefully calibrated for utility, and students will know how to apply the knowledge they gain in the working world. “These are tangible steps toward a future in the hotel industry: ‘I’m learning this so that I can do that.’ Students can really understand what the stepping stones are, why they’re learning, and what they’re learning in the classroom,” says Dughi.
NAF is also in the process of launching a platform to keep companies connected with students throughout their high school career. Beginning in the ninth grade, students will create profiles to keep track of internships, work-based learning experiences, and academic progress. Companies looking to hire NAF Academy graduates will have access to these profiles to fulfill any internship or employment needs, as well as stay in touch with students if they decide to pursue a college education. “It’s a really amazing program that will add huge value to a NAF degree and it’s also a huge benefit to these companies,” Dughi says. “It makes NAF so much more than philanthropy; it’s a business investment because it’s creating access to a great pool of young talent that is highly skilled and also very diverse.”
To become involved with NAF academies, hotels can visit NAF’s website. The national office then puts businesses in touch with local high schools so they can begin meeting students enrolled in the academy. Dughi says that once companies begin their involvement with NAF, they never want to stop. “Once they’re hooked, they’re hooked,” she says.
Top photo: Washington, D.C. students visit Marriott International headquarters on November 27, 2017.