To encourage Baltimore high school students to pursue careers in the hospitality and tourism industry, the Hilton Hotels Corp. has created a $3 million college scholarship fund, making good on a pledge it made in 2005 after it was chosen to operate the city-owned convention center hotel.
The scholarship aid has been earmarked for students at the National Academy Foundation - in the Digital Harbor High School complex. They will be eligible for the scholarships beginning in the 2008-2009 school year. Hilton has pledged to make $200,000 available to the students annually over a 15-year period, city and Hilton officials said yesterday.
"I hope this is a model for other corporations in other cities to follow," said William Holland, Hilton's vice president of human resources succession planning.
The City Council approved plans to build the convention center hotel in September 2005. It was one of the most hotly debated issues in years, pitting supporters against those who said that spending the money on the $305 million project was too risky.
The 20-story, 756-room Hilton, to be on Pratt Street adjacent to the Baltimore Convention Center, is to open in August 2008.
To land the deal, Hilton, promised to create the scholarship fund, and it guaranteed that 75 percent to 85 percent of its hotel jobs would go to city residents including ex-offenders and the unemployed. Hilton officials also said it would be active in the community.
The scholarships will be awarded to graduating seniors focusing in hospitality and tourism, one of three tracks offered by the National Academy Foundation, which shares a building with Digital Harbor High in Federal Hill.
The National Academy Foundation has about 300 students from all over the city.
School officials say they likely will split the money evenly among those who plan to attend college.
"This shows how we can connect the dots between what you learn in school, what careers are out there for you and how you can expand the opportunities to further that by going to college," Mayor Sheila Dixon said.
Charelle James, director of the National Academy Foundation, said the entire 48-member graduating class from last year went to college.
James said Hilton is the first corporation to establish a major scholarship at the school.
"Right when [the students] think they just don't have enough money to go into college, we can say Hilton hotels has given us this, and we can share it with you," James said. "It means a lot for the school when we go out and promise students and parents that we're going to help their kid get into college."