The only program of its kind in Europe requires a group of high school students to manage a 150-bed chalet in the Italian Dolomite mountains for two weeks -- with no grownup supervision. But this is not a test: the hotel has real, paying customers who hav
LA POLSA - "Managing a hotel? So easy a kid could do it," Giada Cuel says with a smile. And she means it. For two weeks, this 19-year-old from the mountain village of Folgaria has been the director of the three-star hotel La Betulla, located in the La Polsa resort on the Brentonico plateau, in Italy's Dolomites mountains.
She has managed a staff of 49 students turned into managers, cooks, waiters, and marketing consultants who were in charge of the 150-bed hotel, without any help from grownups. The very real -- and very demanding -- customers are students from other schools and special guests, such as local businessmen or the ambassador of Burundi, who was paying an official visit to the region.
Launched ten years ago in the Don Milani high school in the town of Rovereto, "Mission in Polsa" is the only project of its kind in Europe, allowing kids to manage a hotel for two weeks in a completely independent way.
"We wanted to provide the students with an opportunity to do for real the things that they study, with real responsibilities," says professor Maurio Enea who came up with the idea of the project. "Too often during their internships, our students are offered only minor duties. Our goal is to give them the opportunity to choose, to make decisions, maybe to make mistakes -- but always using their own brains."
Enea notes that the students are expected to run the business effectively--and to keep budgets balanced. "They have to work together to succeed in answering the customers' needs, and consequently obtaining a reward," he explains.
Each student has a role. There is one director, two deputy directors, and managers for every department, from reception to entertainment, from the "rooms division", to marketing, food & beverages and administration. During the school year, the students met up every Thursday afternoon and Saturday morning to plan the menus, create a logo, and divide up the tasks.
During the two weeks of management, they turn out to be very well organized. "Every morning we have a meeting with the chiefs of every department to coordinate the work and to sort out the daily problems," says Giada. "We help each other. Even if sometimes there are some arguments, it is a part of the experience too. If as a director I have to give work instructions to my best friend, in that moment I have to look at her as a colleague. We are young students, and we know that this is a short-term experience. But we are not playing, we are working, and we are training."
In the hotel, three girls dressed as nuns are rehearsing the show "Sister Act," which during the evening will entertain the other students who are customers on holiday. In the kitchen, young cooks are debating the best presentation for a vegetable strudel in pumpkin sauce that will be served during a gala dinner for local administrators and business executives. Although he's very proud of his students, Maurio Enea is keeping an eye on everything. But he will not interfere.
Read the original article in Italian
Photo - Hotel La Betulla