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LHS boarder matched with mentor at Westin Kaanapali Ocean Resort Villas

By Staff | May 28, 2015

Pictured at the Lahainaluna High School Boarding Department’s year-end celebration are (from left): Lance Morikawa of the Boarding Department’s Work-Based Program; Rachel Lindsay, director of front office at The Westin Kaanapali Ocean Resort Villas; LHS Senior Eunice Muller; and Sheena Phillips (front desk agent), Annette David (director of human resources) and Ryan Nobriga (hotel manager) of The Westin Kaanapali Ocean Resort Villas.

LAHAINA – To give Lahainaluna High School students real world experience in careers they may pursue in the future, Lance Morikawa and Bobby Watson reached out to the West Maui community.

The duo, leaders of the Work-Based Learning Program in LHS’ Boarding Department, contacted Ryan Nobriga, hotel manager at The Westin Kaanapali Ocean Resort Villas.

“At The Westin Kaanapali Ocean Resort Villas, we are committed to supporting our local community and have strong ties to Lahainaluna High School. Many of our associates either went to Lahainaluna or are parents of Lahainaluna students,” Nobriga said.

“We partnered with the Lahainaluna High School Boarding Department by offering a boarding student a mentorship in a department of their interest at our resort.”

LHS Senior Eunice Muller entered into a mentoring program with Sheena Phillips, front desk agent at The Westin Kaanapali Ocean Resort Villas, every Saturday from Jan. 24 to May 2.

Phillips, a member of the Lahainaluna High School Class of 1999, said that in addition to the check-in and check-out process, she worked with Muller to teach her the importance of building relationships with guests and the need to exhibit confidence.

“At the Front Desk, first impressions are everything. Guests are relying on you, and they can sense hesitation. Therefore, it’s crucial to interact with them in a very genuine but also in a confident way with a vibrant aloha spirit. Eunice learned this throughout her time with us and demonstrated it in her interactions with guests,” said Phillips, who has worked at the resort for nearly six years.

The mentor said Muller gained confidence through interacting with guests.

“She also learned to always keep the aloha spirit embedded in your heart. Everyone you are helping deserves the aloha spirit regardless of the situation, and I know Eunice understands that and am confident she will take that with her wherever she goes,” Phillips commented.

The once-a-week sessions were fulfilling for both participants.

“For me, working with Eunice was always fun and meaningful. She came here willingly, was eager to learn and was teachable. Eunice also reminded me that it’s important to have a teachable spirit. You can never know enough. There are new lessons to learn each day if you stay open to learning them,” Phillips said.

“Through my mentorship experience at the Front Desk at The Westin Kaanapali Ocean Resort Villas, I learned the importance of good communication skills. I know it will help me in the future, not only at the Front Desk of other hotels, but in all departments as well as the real world,” Muller explained.

“The experience of working with Aunty Sheena was great. I admire the way she interacts with guests. She showed me that the aloha spirit is very important, and that it can actually inspire both associates and guests. I’m glad I got to work with her and will take these lessons with me.”

Nobriga said resort employees met monthly with Boarding Department leaders and Lahainaluna High School teachers to provide updates on the program.

Resort associates also decided to donate the proceeds raised at their Earth Hour event in March to the Lahainaluna High School Boarding Department.

Nobriga said on-the-job experience is important for students.

“Lahainaluna High School students who participate in the Work-Based Learning Program and are interested in being placed with The Westin Kaanapali Ocean Resort Villas will improve their communication skills through working with our guests and associates,” he said.

“Being in the workplace is much different than a classroom… dedicated time in the workplace will prove to be beneficial to them in the future. They’ll learn interpersonal skills, as well as teamwork and responsibility. Participating in this program gives the students a valuable glimpse at what they will see in the future. The experience will empower them, allowing them to be more confident in their future place of employment.”

The resort is open to mentoring more LHS students in the future.

“We see it not only as a win for the students in allowing them to experience the hospitality industry, but as a win for hospitality industry, as these students may be future associates and leaders in our industry,” Nobriga concluded.