Livingstone student selected to participate in Disney intern program

Published 12:00 am Thursday, March 20, 2014

Kevin M. Pettice won’t attend classes at Livingstone College in the fall. But the junior hospitality management major from Charlotte will be learning nonetheless.
Pettice has been selected to participate in The Walt Disney World College Program, an internship that will look good on his resume and eventually help him land a job.
“The program selects approximately 4,000 students per semester from colleges and community colleges throughout the United States,” said Kent Phillips, educator relations specialist for Disney Worldwide Services. “It’s a work-integrated learning experience offering students the opportunity to live, learn and earn at the Walt Disney Resort in Orlando.
“His job responsibilities will be at one of our quick-service food and beverage restaurants, and he’ll be living in one of the company-sponsored apartment complexes,” Phillips continued. “I don’t know if he’s taking any classes or not, but he has the opportunity to attend company-sponsored and presented educational offerings while participating in the program.”
Pettice, who’s been interested in hospitality management since working at the Charlotte Country Club at age 16, is excited about the internship. He initially spoke with a Disney representative when he and two other Livingstone College students attended the National Society of Minorities in Hospitality (NSMH) Conference & Career Fair in St. Louis last month.
“When we arrived in St. Louis I had my game face on, and I had Disney in my vision,” Pettice said. “I went up to a Disney representative and was just being my energetic and positive self, and she told me she liked that and that it was in line with the Disney spirit.”
The woman emailed Pettice an online application, which he completed. Next was a web-based interview, followed by a 20-minute phone interview. A few weeks after the phone interview, Pettice received an acceptance letter detailing a three-step process. Now Pettice is simply waiting on May 12, the day he checks into the Chatham Apartment Complex on Disney’s campus.
“I’m excited about the internship because I enjoy interacting with people and helping them with their dining needs,” Pettice said. “I’m confident the experience I gain in Florida will prove invaluable once I’ve returned to Livingstone College to finish earning my degree.”
Pettice was originally scheduled to graduate in May 2015, but says the chance to intern at Disney makes delaying graduation until December 2015 worth it.
Currently, he works as the assistant manager at Varick Renaissance Center, where he ensures events run smoothly. Varick, which is affiliated with the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church, is a full-service event center that hosts weddings, receptions, church anniversaries and workshops.
“Kevin is such a great young man and has such a great personality and wonderful attitude,” said Varick CEO Carolyn Pitts. “He’s very dependable, especially given he’s working while attending college. He comes and works for me on weekends when he can, which I know is a sacrifice because I’m sure there are some social activities in which he could be participating. Everybody likes him.”
Pitts said Pettice has definitely chosen a profession for which he’s well suited.
“He does a good job with events,” she said. “The chef likes him, and you know chefs are very particular, but he’s always excited when Kevin is working.”
Vivian Ray, director of Livingstone’s Hospitality Management and Culinary Arts Program, isn’t surprised to hear Pitts singing Pettice’s praises. After all, Pettice has worked with Ray since the college held a ribbon-cutting ceremony announcing the hospitality program in May 2012.
“Kevin was the first student to come to the program, and he wants to be a leader in the industry,” Ray said. “When you want it you’re hungry for it, and anywhere I’ve asked him to go he’s gone and done a superb job. When we took the students to St. Louis several weeks ago there were recruiters from all of the major companies, and Kevin landed an internship at the most-visited tourist attraction in the world. Once he leaves the internship, if he remains focused and driven, he’ll be a high-paid executive right off the bat.”
Ray, a veteran in the hospitality industry, has been a professor in the University of Central Florida’s Rosen College of Hospitality Management and Purdue University’s Hospitality Management Program, both widely considered among the nation’s best. During her six years at Vocational Technical College, she was instrumental in adding an annual student trip to La Varenne Cooking School in Paris. She said the hospitality industry is wide open right now, despite the economic downturn, and minorities are in demand in the field.
“There are an abundance of job opportunities for African-Americans in this industry; however, because of the lack of knowledge people don’t tend to navigate this way,” Ray said. “A lot of people of color work in the industry at the minimum-wage level because they don’t have the education. With education they’re qualified to go into leadership roles, which pay significantly more.”
Ray accompanied Pettice and two other Livingstone students on the St. Louis trip, including Ashley McGrew, who will intern at the Hyatt Regency.
“I’m extremely proud of Kevin,” Ray said. “He’s my first protégé who’s getting ready to go out into the world. Kevin withstood the rigors of the program and showed he’s very receptive to learning the customer service component of the industry – one of the things Disney liked about him.”
Livingstone President Dr. Jimmy R. Jenkins, Sr., is also proud of Pettice.
“I think this is a terrific example of the importance of offering majors that are in demand and providing our students with such opportunities,” Jenkins said. “I congratulate Mr. Pettice for his aggressiveness, and I congratulate Mrs. Ray for her training and involvement with our hospitality students.”
Phillips, of Disney Worldwide Services, said students are recruited nationally for the competitive internship program through social media and the company’s website. Interns work a minimum of 30 hours a week and up to 45, he said.
Pettice, who aspires to be a food service manager or restaurant owner someday, can’t wait for the spring semester to end.
And with an internship at Disney waiting, who can blame him?