Featured Press Releases

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For Immediate Release, June 2022
Explore Charleston Launches Second Year of Program For Minority College Students

CHARLESTON, S.C. - Explore Charleston welcomes the second class of its Intern Cultural Enrichment Program (ICEP), an initiative that connects underrepresented minority students, most from historically-black colleges and universities (HBCUs), with world-class internship opportunities in the Charleston area travel and hospitality industry.

ICEP includes a ten-week leadership development program that complements the paid internships. Students participate in a weekly curriculum led by Explore Charleston that introduces them to the community and local culture, fosters interaction with civic and business leaders, cultivates peer relationships, and develops business and communication skills to support personal and professional growth.

“We’ve maintained a commitment to raising awareness and taking action for diversity, equity and inclusion through our Heart for Hospitality initiative. The growth of ICEP represents meaningful progress toward achieving one of our strategic goals: encouraging opportunities to recruit and develop individuals from diverse backgrounds into tourism and hospitality. Our industry should reflect the community, but that doesn’t mean employees and future leaders have to be from the Lowcountry,” said Helen Hill, CEO of Explore Charleston.

“A lot of workforce recruitment programs focus on entry-level positions. While those are certainly important, ICEP aims to help fill a gap we identified in growing the diversity of our regional workforce at the management level. It’s critical we reinforce career pathways that exist in this industry,” said Marc Gibson, Explore Charleston’s Director of Inclusion and Engagement.

The ICEP concept originated in 2020 with support from Explore Charleston’s Board of Governors and insight from the Heart for Hospitality Steering Committee. Since then, Explore Charleston has worked continuously to build relationships with HBCUs and other universities, recruit candidates, and identify local travel industry partners interested in hosting interns.

The ICEP class of 2022 includes 14 students from ten universities who are completing internships with ten area employers.
“The reception we received from students, schools and employers over the last 12 months exceeded our expectations and the strong response in year one. We are encouraged by the increased participation and grateful for the commitment demonstrated by all involved,” said Gibson.

Eight HBCUs are represented this summer, twice the number from 2021. South Carolina is home to four of the participating HBCUs, compared to one in the inaugural class.

HBCUs represented in 2022 include Benedict College (Columbia, SC), Claflin University (Orangeburg, SC), Morris College (Sumter, SC), University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff (Pine Bluff, AR), University of the District of Columbia (Washington, D.C.), University of Maryland Eastern Shore (Princess Anne, MD), Virginia State University (Petersburg, VA), and Voorhees College (Denmark, SC).

ICEP also welcomes for the first time students from Atlanta Technical College (Atlanta, GA) and College of Charleston (Charleston, SC).

Hilton - Embassy Suites Charleston Harbor and Embassy Suites Historic District, Hilton Garden Inn Charleston Waterfront/Downtown, and Explore Charleston join an existing lineup of employers including The Charleston Place, Charleston County Aviation Authority, Charlestowne Hotels, Hotel Bennett, Kiawah Island Golf Resort, Lowcountry Hotels, and Wild Dunes Resort.

“It is incredible to bring so many stakeholders together as we build off the momentum of a successful first year. Our hope remains that through the internships and ICEP, these impressive students are inspired to continue pursuing careers in travel and hospitality, hopefully in the Charleston area. Our employees are the key to our community’s success, so we’re proud to expand this program and invest in the next generation of industry and community leaders,” said Hill.

There is no cost to the students for participation in ICEP, and Explore Charleston covers housing costs.

“One of the biggest hurdles to internships is the housing component. Thanks to the continued support of College of Charleston, we are able to address the need again this year," said Gibson.

The ICEP program began with orientation on June 1. The program concludes with a pinning ceremony on August 9 at the Riviera Theater.


Morgan Best | Virginia State University
Employer: Charlestowne Hotels (HarbourView Inn)

Kyonna Bryant | Atlanta Technical College
Employer: Hotel Bennett

Fritza Camille | University of the District of Columbia
Employer: Charlestowne Hotels (The Spectator Hotel and French Quarter Inn)

Lamont Ferrebee | Atlanta Technical College
Employer: Charleston Place

Brea Fields | College of Charleston
Employer: Charleston County Aviation Authority

Prince Harris II | Virginia State University
Employer: Hilton - Embassy Suites Charleston Harbor and Embassy Suites Historic District

Trayvon Harris | Morris College
Employer: Hotel Bennett

Trenay Hayes | University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff
Employer: Charleston Place

Solomon Jacob | Virginia State University
Employer: Lowcountry Hotels (Hilton Garden Inn/Homewood Suites Summerville)

Bryson Miller | Voorhees University
Employer: Explore Charleston

Kelly Nixon | Benedict College
Employer: Hilton Garden Inn Charleston Waterfront/Downtown

Colby Powell | University of Maryland Eastern Shore
Employer: Kiawah Island Golf Resort

Breyonna Ravenel | Claflin University
Employer: Wild Dunes

Olivia Roker | Benedict College
Employer: Charlestowne Hotels (Indigo Inn and Meeting Street Inn)

As the region’s destination management and marketing organization, Explore Charleston represents ten municipalities across three counties. It seeks to unify and lead the local travel industry in marketing the Charleston area, create overnight visitation, and support responsible development through travel and tourism strategies.

Heart for Hospitality was developed in 2018 to formalize Explore Charleston’s ongoing efforts to advance the Lowcountry by promoting, informing and advocating inclusion and engagement in the travel and hospitality industry.

Media contact:
Chris Campbell, Explore Charleston
[email protected]

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