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The 2024 Republican National Convention will be in Milwaukee July 15-18, 2024.

Milwaukee high school students prepare to welcome RNC attendees as city ambassadors

15 high school students pose for a picture on a staircase inside a grand hotel. They all wear the same gray polo shirts.
Catherine Rufer
The 15 RNC student ambassadors attend high schools all across Milwaukee Public Schools, including Ronald Reagan High School, Golda Meir High School, and Alexander Hamilton High School.

The Republican National Convention is only a month away, and it is estimated to bring at least 50,000 people to Milwaukee.

Some of those visitors will be greeted by Milwaukee high school students. Milwaukee Public Schools and the Marcus Corporation partnered to launch a student ambassador program for the RNC. The student ambassadors will welcome hotel guests as they arrive in the city. The students will also learn about the hospitality industry, Milwaukee’s history, and the economic impact of the RNC.

Businesses all across Milwaukee have been preparing to welcome thousands of RNC visitors. This includes the Marcus Corporation, which owns the Pfister, Saint Kate, and 14 other hotels in the country. The company has recruited the help of 15 Milwaukee high school students.

During the week of the RNC, the students will be stationed at the Pfister Hotel and the Hilton Milwaukee City Center greeting guests as they arrive from out of town and will be answering any questions guests have about navigating Milwaukee. The program is a paid summer internship.

To prepare, the students are participating in a five-week-long training. This includes lectures about the hospitality industry and meeting with hotel staff members. Students will also participate in tours of Milwaukee to become more educated on the city’s history.

High school students Yazmari Perez and Farida Qatoum from Alexander Hamilton High School are excited about what they’ll learn.

"We're currently learning about hospitality right now, like making sure you have a positive presence when you're talking to the guests, making sure you're properly representing yourself, those around you and Milwaukee Public Schools," Qatoum says. 

"Tomorrow we're going on the Hop, and we're going to tour downtown," Perez explains. "We'll see what it's like so we know what we're talking about when we're telling guests, 'There's this nice restaurant that you could go to to hang out with family, it's on this street.' I'm looking forward to touring Milwaukee."

Students sit in a conference room facing the front of the room. A lecturer stands at the front of the room talking to students while gesturing towards a slideshow presentation.
Nadya Kelly
/
WUWM
The student ambassadors attend a lecture about hospitality in the Pfister Hotel given by a staff member.

MPS internship coordinator Tamera Coleman and Marcus Hotels director of talent acquisition Matt Martin initially came up with the idea for the ambassador program in 2020, when the Democratic National Convention was coming to Milwaukee. But, because of COVID, the DNC was scaled way back. Once Coleman and Martin heard that the RNC was coming to Milwaukee, they revisited the idea and started planning.

"With the RNC, we were just a little nervous with the whole political environment," Coleman says. "It’s very different than it was for the DNC. However, we just thought it would be a great experience for our students to have this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity."

During the training, students also get to learn about Milwaukee’s political history from local officials. Coleman organized panels where the students will hear from former Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes, State Rep. Supreme Moore Omokunde and Mayor Cavalier Johnson.

Jazmine Gray is a senior at Golda Meir High School. She applied for the program because she was interested in developing her communication and leadership skills. But since starting the training, she has enjoyed learning more about Milwaukee and has come to see the city in a new light.

"I didn’t think Milwaukee was that big, so when I first heard of the Pfister and how it hosted so many presidents, I was like, whoa. I think it’s gonna be a rich experience for me."
Jazmine Gray

"I didn’t think Milwaukee was that big, so when I first heard of the Pfister and how it hosted so many presidents, I was like whoa," Gray says. "I think it’s gonna be a rich experience for me."

Catherine Rufer is a teacher at Bay View High School and one of the three teacher leaders who will supervise the students during the ambassador program. She says she feels lucky to experience new things with the students outside of the classroom.

"I’m gonna be experiencing some things that I never have either, and I’ve lived in Milwaukee my entire life," Rufer says. "Nobody has done it all in Milwaukee, so it’s all gonna be a learning experience for all of us. So it’s kinda cool that we all get to learn together."

Coleman hopes the ambassador program will challenge the students to get out of their comfort zones and maybe even spark an interest in politics or hospitality as a career. She also hopes the program will show the students what makes their hometown so special.

Nadya is WUWM's sixth Eric Von fellow.
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