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Local vets graduate thanks to Hilton College, industry leader partnership


Local veteran Laurens Roller was one of the graduates at the ceremony and said he is grateful for the program. | Justin Tijerina/The Cougar

The third class of veterans in the Learning Skills for Life program graduated Wednesday in the Waldorf Astoria Ballroom at the Conrad N. Hilton College of Hotel and Restaurant Management.

The Hilton College and Diageo, an international alcoholic beverage company, teamed up for the program, which assists underemployed and unemployed veterans in Houston.

“Our goal is to equip the students with the tools, training and resources needed to secure entry-level job placement in the hospitality industry,” Diageo program manager Frederick Smith said.

Veterans who are accepted into the program follow a four week curriculum that includes lessons on restaurant and banquet service, culinary basics and hotel management. The course’s final week focuses on professional development.

The participants partake in mock interviews, learn how to build resumes and connect with human resource managers from companies like Pappas Restaurants, Sodexo Hospitality Corporation and Wyndham Hotels.

Hilton College dean Dennis Reynolds said they designed the program to better the community while helping veterans.

At the ceremony, veterans received certifications from the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission and ServSafe, which are a requirements to work in the food and beverage industry in Texas.

The keynote speaker for the event was Veterans’ Affairs Compensated Work Therapy program director Charles Miles.

During his speech, Miles, a veteran himself, told the graduates his story and how certain “refining moments” shaped his life.

“Like diamonds, you veterans are going through a refining process,” Miles said. “Do not let your trials and tribulations get you down. You are not at your shiniest and most finished product, but are getting there now.”

Seven veterans graduated this cycle and have either received employment from the program or have interviewed with prospective employers.

“For many of them, this course served as an opportunity to start over and pursue new avenues for success,” Smith said. “They feel excited and rejuvenated.”

Graduate Laurens Roller gave the class remarks and expressed his gratitude to UH and Diageo.

“This program has realigned workplace values. It has put us veterans back on the right path,” Roller said. “As veterans, we provided for the needs of our country, and now, those in our country have provided for us.”

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