DC’s Hospitality High School Now Has Its Own Building

The occasion was celebrated with a delicious lunch and a ribbon-cutting.
In the busy Hospitality High School kitchen, students prepare dessert, including cotton candy and chocolate brownies. Photographs by Carol Ross Joynt.
In the busy Hospitality High School kitchen, students prepare dessert, including cotton candy and chocolate brownies. Photographs by Carol Ross Joynt.

If the lunch that was served on Wednesday is any indication, the students at DC’s
Hospitality High School are getting a good education. More than 120 elected officials,
community leaders, supporters, teachers, and friends gathered to enjoy a meal of chilled
avocado soup, grilled chicken with asparagus and well-dressed lettuces, and an eye-popping
dessert of chocolate brownie, fudge sauce, walnuts, and cotton candy. If anyone doubted
the origin of the food preparation, a screen over the stage broadcast a live feed
from the downstairs kitchen, bustling with student chefs at work.

It’s taken 14 years and two previous locations for the high school to have its own
building, at Ninth and T streets, Northwest, a four-story red-brick building that
was originally home to the Grand United Order of the Odd Fellows in America, an African-American
organization. “In 1932, at the height of the depression, the Odd Fellows built this
building,” said Ward 1 council member
Jim Graham. “It was built, every single brick, by black citizens and residents of the District
of Columbia.”

The Hospitality High School acquired the building thanks to hundreds of thousands
of dollars in donations from the J. Willard and Alice S. Marriott Foundation, Hilton
Worldwide, and the Hotel Association of Washington. Present at the lunch was
Richard Marriott, who noted that his family’s business started in Ward 1 with a root beer stand on
Park Road. He said his father’s office was across the street from Roosevelt High School,
where HHS was a tenant before the most recent, and presumably last, move. “We would
look out of his window right onto the football field. I grew up as a little kid watching
games on the Roosevelt High School football field.”

Marriott has been involved with this particular charter school from its beginning.
“I look back at Eighth and D streets [HHS’s first location]. Roosevelt was a huge
jump up, and this tops it,” he said. “We are thrilled to be here. It will prove great
for our great young students.”

Marriott also spoke about the relationship of education to success in the job market,
and said high school students in DC have “one of the highest dropout rates in the
nation. Our 16- to 19-year-old teenagers in this city are 50 percent unemployed.”
He said the Hospitality High School exists to help young people find jobs. “There
are unlimited opportunities in the hospitality industry,” he said. Throughout the
lunch, students came to the stage to tell their stories.

Danielle Duarte said, “Hospitality High prepared me for college and a career. I graduated from Norfolk
State University with a degree in hospitality management and tourism. I am currently
working at the Residence Inn Capital as a front-desk agent.”

Junior
Michael Vanegas said, “Hospitality High School is preparing me for college and a better future.”
He said after graduation he plans to attend Delaware State to study business.

Amin Skaikay, who moved to DC from his native Sierra Leone in 2004, said that because of HHS he
was accepted to the Hilton Corporation’s management development program. “I completed
an internship at Hilton’s Embassy Suites Convention Center Hotel in engineering, restaurant,
housekeeping, front desk, and bell staff positions.”

Jada Robinson said she is excited to be a member of the first senior class in the new building.
“My class, the class of 2014, will serve as role models. I am a proud member of our
Cornell Group, which exposes us to Cornell and their real estate and hospitality management
programs.” She said she hopes to attend Cornell and major in business management.

Robinson introduced
Solomon Keene, who is president of the Hotel Association of Washington, which she said has invested
more than $1 million since the school’s inception, as well as $100,000 toward the
new school. Keene said that when HHS opened in 1998 the idea of having a dedicated
building was only a dream. “This is a wonderful day for our students, our parents,
our teachers, our executive team and every single stakeholder,” Keene said. “We will
now have an opportunity to come to our very own school in this building that we can
call our own.”

Graham and Ward 2 council member
Jack Evans, who also spoke, slipped out after their remarks and so missed the official opening
on stage. Richard Marriott was handed the gold scissors and given the honor of cutting
the big red ribbon, prompting loud applause.

Richard Marriott, representing the Marriott Foundation, cuts the ribbon for the new Hospitality High School at 1851 Ninth Street, Northwest.
The new Hospitality High School building, which was originally constructed in 1932.

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