Cool at School: Mentors Guide Future Hospitality Professionals

LAS VEGAS - A cafe inside the Southpoint Casino doesn't seem like the traditional setting for higher education, but Michael Kennedy and Vildan Buric have a good reason to be there.

Michael Kennedy is Director of Food Service for the Southpoint. He is one of many Las Vegas hospitality professionals involved with the Epicurean Charitable Foundation who donate their time and resources to develop a future generation of hospitality executives. Michael is Vildan's mentor.

"I believe it's part of my responsibility to groom the next group of hospitality professionals," Michael said.

"We talk more like friends, not like mentor/mentee relationship. It goes beyond that," added Vildan, a junior at UNLV.

In addition to his 15 credit hours at UNLV, Vildan comes to Michael's world and learns the ropes about an industry in which he hopes to one day find success. He hopes to enter the human resources side of hospitality.

"I can learn stuff from him that I won't learn in class. It's more learning what's on the job," he said.

Vildan has a unique background. He was born in Bosnia, but escaped the hellish civil war there two decades ago. His family settled in the valley where Vildan decided to pursue a career in the hospitality field.

He won a scholarship from the Epicurean Charitable Foundation to attend UNLV and as part of the deal, was matched with Michael. It's a match both say is built to last.

"I know I can always call him up, go have lunch, catch up," Vildan said.

"We've been together eight months now. The relationship is great. I learn from him. He's very humble. One day, he'll probably be my boss," Michael said.

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