Acworth resident Melissa LaMarsh and her family have donated gently-used items to Goodwill for many years and often noticed the Career Center entrance at the Woodstock store. In July 2018, they decided to learn what goes on behind those doors.

Upon entering the Career Center, Melissa and her mother were greeted by Aly Andino, who began helping Melissa look for hospitality jobs. As Aly chatted with Melissa, she realized that Goodwill’s Hospitality training program would be a perfect fit. Melissa agreed, because after giving birth to her son she needed to find work that would have a career trajectory and a benefits package. Completing the training program would provide her with the credentials to head down that path.

Melissa held hospitality jobs through the years, including roles in assisted living facilities, banquet service, and fast food. Working in hospitality runs in her family, with several relatives employed in the industry at various times. As a training program participant, she was excited about expanding her knowledge base and taking the next step in her work life.

Melissa’s classes began in early fall 2018, where she learned about every part of the hotel – from the front desk to the back of the house. She gained a greater understanding about the industry in general and in particular,  became interested in a front desk career, because as the first or second person a guest encounters she believes that is the place to put her customer service skills to their best use.

Instructor Le’Shonda Shumpert also taught Melissa about the importance of excellent communication and how it plays a critical part in the smooth running of a hotel. Her time in class was complemented by hands-on training at Country Inn and Suites, where her work caught the general manager’s eye. Melissa was offered a job in the hotel’s housekeeping department; however, the distance from her home required her to wait for another opportunity.

Employment Specialist Jessica Seals knew that the Holiday Inn Express had vacancies and brought Melissa to meet the general manager and housekeeping supervisor. As Melissa puts it, “The next thing I knew I was sitting in an interview and then I was hired on the spot!”

Melissa joined the housekeeping staff in December 2018, where she enjoyed interacting with guests and being part of a supportive team. In September 2019, Melissa took the next step in her career and moved on to a better paying job as a dining room attendant at Kennesaw State University (KSU).

Now celebrating more than a year at KSU, Melissa shares that the soft skills she learned at Goodwill have been most helpful in communication with her manager. She’s eagerly accepted opportunities to cross-train and particulary liked her temporary assignment at the campus’ Chick-fil-A outlet. Her great attitude continues to serve her well as she helps cooks and servers, and learns more about other positions.

Working at KSU has come with an excellent benefits package and although the university was closed for part of 2020 due to COIVD-19, Melissa and her colleagues still received their salaries. This was most helpful for this single mom of a two-year-old. Melissa is grateful to Goodwill for being the first step in her new direction, and is looking forward to a more stable 2021. She keeps her long-term goal of hotel career in her sights and encourages others to keep taking steps toward fulfilling their dreams. Goodwill congratulates Melissa on achieving two years of continuous employment.