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Rancho Cielo prepares students for work and life success

Carol Chorbajian, CCM&E Destination Services Managing Director and Rancho Cielo committee co-chair
May 31, 2022

As the Monterey Plaza Hotel & Spa’s lead engineer, Sam Arevalo tackles plumbing, painting, drywall installation, electrical work, HVAC maintenance and more. He's the team's second-in-command, making decisions in the chief engineer’s absence, and he's earned industry awards for his work.

Arevalo landed at the 290-room resort by way of Rancho Cielo, the Salinas facility that offers education, job training and social services for underserved and disconnected youth. While studying there, Arevalo learned maintenance and engineering skills. He supervised teams and worked at real-world job sites. Mentors helped him create a resume and prepare for job interviews, and one Rancho Cielo client hired him for repair projects.

He's since launched a side business called Sam’s Handyman Service. At the Monterey Plaza, Arevalo enjoys feeling like a valued team member and connecting with others.

"I had never thought about a job in hospitality, but Rancho Cielo gave me the tools for success. All I had to do was take advantage of them," he says. "When people there see that you are committed, dedicated, and stand out from the group, they will make sure you’re set up for success."

Monterey Plaza Associate Director of Human Resources Angela Hernandez, a Monterey County Hospitality Association (MCHA) member and Rancho Cielo committee co-chair, calls Arevalo reliable and loyal.

"In just a few years, Sam went from an entry-level position to number two in our engineering department. He's definitely an inspiration,” she says.

MCHA supports Rancho Cielo, and its Drummond Culinary Academy, through fundraising, mentorship, job shadowing and internship programs. Members take culinary students to fine dining venues, where they meet restaurant teams and experience service levels they might encounter in future jobs. The organization supplies professional attire for students, and its volunteers assist with fittings and tailoring. MCHA members also organize Rancho Cielo job fairs, connecting students to jobs in hospitality, auto repair, agriculture and construction.

Hernandez and others volunteer during student-run Friday night dinners at the Drummond Culinary Academy. There, she sees students gain communication skills and self-confidence.

“They're so grateful for their lessons and opportunities. It's heartwarming," she says.

The experiences and personal guidance are equally important, explains Drummond Culinary Academy Program Director Mark Bruszer.

"These are great kids, but many lack the structure and stability we might take for granted. They just need extra support and encouragement,” he says.

As they complete customized educational and vocational plans, Rancho Cielo students learn about responsibility and work ethic. Some graduates go on to culinary academies or universities. Others are hired by local hotels, restaurants and hospitals, where they receive additional training as they transition into professional roles.

“Most of these students come to us envisioning a high school diploma. Our goal is to help them think bigger,” Bruszer says. “With the number of job offers that I get, I could employ everyone in the program tomorrow. We’re so grateful for the support of MCHA and this community.”

To learn more about Rancho Cielo, visit www.ranchocieloyc.org.

The Monterey County Hospitality Association is the trade association serving the local tourism industry with advocacy, education and employee recognition programs. For information, visit www.mcha.net or contact Kristin Horton at kristin@mcha.net.

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