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Graduate’s Passion for Hospitality Has Sent Her Around the Globe

Lizzie Helmick in a Dubai desert.
Lizzie Helmick ’23 (left) in Dubai.

York College of Pennsylvania alumna Elizabeth ‘Lizzie’ Helmick '23 gained invaluable experience as her major in Hospitality Management took her from Disney to Dubai.

Driven by her love for making people happy, Lizzie Helmick ’23 knew from a young age that she wanted a career in hospitality. At 14, she started working at Hersheypark, where she discovered her passion for customer service and the joy of interacting with people from all walks of life.

This early experience laid the foundation for her career, setting her on a path to pursue a degree in Hospitality Management at York College of Pennsylvania.

A shared aspiration; a natural decision

Helmick’s family played a significant role in shaping her academic and career choices. Helmick and her older sister, who holds a degree in culinary arts, long have aspired to start an event company. This shared dream helped fuel Helmick’s determination to excel in the field of hospitality.

She also knew that nothing would be handed to her; she would have to work hard to get where she wanted to go.

“If we wanted something growing up, we had to work for it,” she says. “And if I want my life to be a certain way, I have to work for it. I go to a job to do the job and do it well.”

Choosing York College was a natural decision for Helmick. Her mother is a 1988 York College alumna. Growing up near the College, Helmick felt the strong pull of the campus. The opportunity to continue playing her beloved French horn in ensembles and the reputation of the College’s Hospitality Management program made her decision an easy one.

A world of experience

Helmick’s accomplishments at York College went above and beyond her initial expectations. One of the standout aspects of her journey was the wealth of hands-on experience she gained through internships. They took her from the magical world of Disney to the dining halls of Purdue University and ultimately to the international stage in Dubai.

She also experienced hands-on learning at The Hotel Hershey and The Yorktowne Hotel, which broadened her horizons, exposed her to diverse cultures, and equipped her with valuable skills.

“I think that my internships show that I’m flexible and able to pivot,” she says.

Helmick’s time at Walt Disney World as part of the Disney College Program, from August 2021 to February 2022, allowed her to work with a diverse group of people and offered the opportunity to practice her Spanish skills. It also taught her how to create the best experience for adults and children while paying attention to the details that make someone’s day memorable.

Her subsequent internship at Purdue University’s dining halls, where she worked at the Mongolian fare station, further honed her skills in providing event services, catering, and working across cultures.  

However, it was her internship in Dubai in January 2023 that pushed her out of her comfort zone. Working and living in a foreign country was a remarkable challenge through which Helmick learned about various cultures as she adapted to the unique demands of her role. This international experience has proven invaluable in her current work with clients from diverse backgrounds.

Stepping into the professional world

Since graduating from York College, Helmick has embarked on a career with Marriott International through its Voyager program. This intensive one-year management training focuses on event services, with responsibilities ranging from setting up rooms to scheduling and catering for conferences. On the weekends, Helmick often can be found helping to manage weddings at the Baltimore Marriott Waterfront.

“I have a lot of pride for what I’ve accomplished,” she says. “But I try to be very careful about not bulldozing my way in. I help my associates whenever they need help. I make sure I’m there during functions.”

Helmick’s journey into the workforce hasn’t been without its surprises and challenges. She’s had to navigate the expectations of her colleagues, often needing to assert her expertise despite her young age. Her extensive experience, which began at age 14, strong work ethic, and adaptability have helped her earn respect and recognition from her colleagues and clients.

Helmick envisions possibly stepping into a leadership role with Marriott International, and she still dreams of opening a hospitality business with her sister, all the while encouraging others to pursue their dreams relentlessly.

“The opportunities are endless,” she says. “If you put your mind to it and you go in there, the opportunities are sat in front of you.”