ORLANDO, Florida — ┬áThe second largest Skal Club in the U.S. and among the top 10 world-wide, Skal Orlando is a large group of travel and tourism executives who care about the future of their industry. The Young Skal program the club started in 2011, in concert with Dean Abe Pizam and the UCF Rosen College of Hospitality Management, gives students studying hospitality, travel and tourism the opportunity to network with highly visible companies and executives in Central Florida, including hotels, attractions, airports, sports facilities, transportation companies and many more.

“Candidates for Young Skal membership are identified by The Rosen College, and interviewed by our Skal Orlando Young Skal Committee each year. We are very selective and accept only the most promising candidates to help build the future of our club and to help build the future of their careers,” explained Barbara Kenney, Skal Orlando Young Skal Chair, Skal Orlando Past President and President of Kenney Communications, Inc. “Young Skal members are our future. I’d like to see more Skal clubs grow and develop Young Skal members.”

Assisting Kenney in the early days of establishing the Young Skal program in Orlando was Skal Orlando Past President Carlton Hudson, Managing Director of Hard Rock Hotel Universal Orlando. Hudson saw the potential early on of what the program could accomplish not only for the students but also for club members. “The opportunity to mentor young hospitality ┬áprofessionals is the most rewarding part of all this,” he said.

Currently, Skal Orlando has five Young Skal student members and four Young Skal Professional Members, who are students that have graduated and are now in an industry position. There are now 65 Young Skal members throughout the U.S. and 650 worldwide.

“Our plan is to grow the Young Skal professional category for those who are already in their first positions and are getting ready to move into management level positions. After that, they would qualify for active membership,” said Tom White, Skal Orlando Executive Secretary/Treasurer, Past President of Skal Orlando and Past President of Skal USA.

In just the last six years of the program, several Skal Orlando Young Skal members have been hired by Skal member companies in area hotels, restaurant corporations and other industry firms in front desk, reservations, customer service, marketing and more. Others have moved to different areas of the country and abroad for industry positions and have become very active members of Skal Clubs in those states and countries, giving back to the industry and further nurturing their careers through Skal.

“The greatest reward of being part of this organization is the opportunity to connect with leaders in the industry. Especially in Orlando, the tourism capital of the world, our club represents the best in the business,” exclaimed Stefanie Zambelli, a Young Skal Professional member who joined Skal Orlando in 2014 and currently works as national sales manager for the Bahama Breeze brand of Darden Restaurants. “Skal provides a special opportunity to develop in your career, learn from others, find mentors and mentees and make connections for a lifetime.” Zambelli has taken her interest and energy to the international level of Skal, speaking and attending Young Skal forums at Skal International Congresses.

Skal Orlando Members are definitely getting involved to support the mission to grow Young Skal membership.┬á┬á Skal Orlando executive committee member, Jeff Calvert, President of Calvert Corporation, saw the need to support Young Skal members in a special way. “Having been associated with the hospitality industry with Sheraton and Hilton over a span of 25 years, I have employed many young hotel professionals and enjoying training and supporting them as they grew and were promoted in various positions,” Calvert commented. So I decided to sponsor a Young Skal member this year financially, to assure this individual could actively participate. I invite other Skal members to do the same.”

Skal is the only international organization bringing together sectors of the travel and tourism industry while networking, conducting business and helping communities locally, nationally and internationally. For more information on Skal Orlando, go to www.skalorlando.com. For membership information, contact Dennis BeMent, Membership Development Officer, Skal International Orlando, at dennis.bement@icloud.com.