Discovering a passion for hospitality

A work placement at a local hotel inspired one Perkins student’s plans for the future

A student working at a hotel breakfast buffet

Carolyn works behind the breakfast buffet at the Crowne Plaza Boston-Newton.

November 1, 2017

As a student at Perkins School for the Blind, Carolyn, 21, has learned new skills, made lasting friendships and grown into an independent, confident young adult. She’s also amassed a resume that would rival many of her sighted peers.

In recent years, Carolyn has held positions at Watertown Savings Bank, Maplewood Senior Living and Ten Thousand Villages. Each job – whether it was operating a coin sorting machine, delivering bouquets or organizing display cases – brought her one step closer to figuring out her future career.  

“It’s been a good process for her,” said Perkins Job Developer Karen McCormack. “That’s the goal of having work experiences – finding out what you did well in, what you liked and what suited you.”

It was a placement at Crowne Plaza Boston-Newton that helped Carolyn discover her true passion: serving and interacting with others. She’s now in her second year working at the hotel, where she’s a member of the food and beverage team.   

“I love, love, love working with people,” she said during a recent breakfast shift. “That’s what I want to do. I don’t want to work behind a desk or behind a microphone; I want to be with people making them happy.”

On a typical morning, Carolyn whips up cappuccinos using a specialty coffee maker and makes sure the pastry and fruit platters in the 12th floor breakfast room remain neatly stocked. When a guest wanders in searching for coffee, she calls out a cheerful greeting.

“How are you?” she asks.

Carolyn’s social skills have earned her praise from supervisors, as well as complimentary notes from guests. They’ve also helped her connect with fellow hotel employees and develop self-confidence.   

“She’s really fit in,” said Ward Childs, chief operating officer at Key Hospitality, who worked with McCormack to bring Carolyn on board. “She’s contributed and we’ve felt the difference.”

When breakfast closes at 10 a.m., Carolyn begins the breakdown process. She uses a plastic funnel to empty the juice pitchers into larger containers, and clothespins instead of twist ties to close the bread bags. By 10:30, she’s arrived in the downstairs restaurant, ready to assist the wait staff with any task they might need.

“She’ll do anything she’s asked to do and if she can’t do something she’ll try to find a way to make it happen,” said Childs. “That kind of attitude is hard to find.”

With support from McCormack and her Perkins job coach, Carolyn has managed the details of her work life with minimal assistance. She commutes independently to the hotel by calling a taxi or scheduling a pick-up with the RIDE, Boston’s paratransit service, and she emails her supervisor if she can’t make a shift.  

When she graduates from Perkins in June, Carolyn plans to pursue a job in hospitality. Until then, she’s asked her boss for extra responsibilities.

“I’m going to try to learn everything that I possibly can,” she said.