The Manhattan Educational Opportunity Center (MEOC) is a school located in the heart of Harlem, New York. It is administered by the Borough of Manhattan Community College/CUNY and funded by the State of New York. Its primary mission is to serve the neediest adult learners living in New York by providing them with free academic and career training programs and supportive services.
“The MEOC serves as a gateway to access education, career, achievement, personal growth and self-sufficiency for adult learners in New York City,” said Tanya Brown, Director of Academic Affairs.
In the fall of 2016, the MEOC introduced a Hospitality Training Program to help develop front line staff members in the service industry. “The MEOC’s definition of an adult student is anyone over the age of 17,” she explained. “Additionally, we offer English for Speakers of Other Languages, College Prep, High School Equivalency, Literacy Development and Developmental Studies Skills as part of our academic programs. Workforce development programs include Microsoft Office, Electronic Health Records, Security Officer Training and Certified Nursing Assistant.”
Brown noted that the MEOC works with students with the goal of earning a high school equivalency diploma, even at a fourth grade reading level. “For all Workforce Development programs, a High School Diploma or its equivalent is required,” said Brown. “But, students cannot have a college degree. The academic goal for MEOC students wishing to further their education is to prepare them for college through our College Prep program.”
The Hospitality Training Program was created when restaurateurs of various Harlem establishments approached the MEOC about a training module to train students in customer service to become front line staff members in the service industry. “The goal of our hospitality program is to give students a better understanding of the hospitality industry, to show them that there is a career path in the industry, to help them attain nationally recognized credentials so that they are more employable and to provide employers with employees who are ready to hit the ground running when they start working,” Brown stated. “It’s a win-win for everyone. We want to show our students that just starting out as a waiter or waitress can progress into a full career. You can make a lot of money in this industry.” Brown also pointed out that the program is not just limited to fast food and that it includes an experiential learning experience similar to a short-term internship in conjunction with partnering agencies as employers.
“When the program began, a small number of students were enrolled but, in the end, all of the students completed their customer service certification from the National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation (NRAEF),” she said. “And, one of the students was actually employed by the host agency from their experiential learning piece. So that definitely is a great success.”
Is customer service really teachable? “Absolutely,” she exclaimed. “In the Hospitality industry, there are definitely some important qualities that a person must possess. But, there are also things that can be taught such as greeting customers, how to answer questions with a smile or how to make eye contact when speaking,” she said. “So, certain skill sets can be taught and that’s what is being done in the Hospitality Training Program.”
All programs at the MEOC are free of charge, but there are eligibility requirements. All students must be a resident of New York for at least a year, meet low-income New York State guidelines and be non-college graduates.
Prospective students are invited to attend an Admission Sessions, held every week at 10 a.m. and 6 p.m. The MEOC is located at 163 West 125th Street, on Adam Clayton Powell Boulevard, 15th floor. Office hours are 9:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m., Monday through Friday, or call 212-961-3231.
Restaurateurs interested in the Hospitality Training Program can contact Tanya Brown, Director of Academic Affairs at (212) 961-4092 or Tanya.Brown@man.eoc.cuny.edu or visit their website for more information.