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Despite COVID-19 layoff, Hospitality Management grad finds new career direction

Kirstie serving wine in Nursing Home

Kirstie Linn ’17 filled her class load with experiences related to restaurants, hotels, and the food and beverage industry. The Hospitality Management student wanted to learn everything she could about the career that awaited her. She gained valuable work experience with the York Revolution, Disney, and Springwood Hospitality. But, even with her stellar résumé, Linn couldn’t have prepared for what the COVID-19 pandemic would do to the hospitality industry.

She was working as a skybox manager with Legends Hospitality at Clipper Magazine Stadium in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, and waitressing in the offseason at Isaac’s Restaurant in York County when she was laid off from both jobs. “It wasn’t anything I could have anticipated,” she says. “I had to figure out what I was going to do next.”

The York County native started looking for jobs in Maryland, about halfway between her and her boyfriend’s parents. She found a position in April at Brightview Senior Living in Annapolis as a Vibrant Living Assistant, where she leads activities with the independent and assisted living residents. “I can’t really say that I thought I’d be doing this back when I was in college,” Linn says. “But I feel really grateful to have landed here.”

Caring at a distance

Under normal circumstances, Linn would be pulling on her event planning skills at Brightview Senior Living. She’d manage the bar for daily happy hours, book outside vendors for live entertainment, and plan themed parties that would require décor and special menus. But, none of those things can be done right now. The risk of COVID-19 exposure keeps residents in their rooms.

The challenge for Linn is to keep residents entertained and continue to contribute to their quality of life. So, she hosts bingo from the hallway while they gather at their doorways to play. She found out that one of the cooks can play guitar, so she had the cook perform a hallway concert. She pushes a bar cart and pours a glass of wine for each resident during their daily happy hour.

She’s become used to the daily temperature checks and wearing a face mask. The protocols are intended to keep the residents safe, who are among the most vulnerable population for COVID-19 exposure. Employees are most likely to pass COVID-19, so it’s important that they follow best practices for safety.

When salons reopened in Maryland, Linn booked herself a nail appointment, but canceled when she thought of her residents. “There are so many residents who would love to get their nails done, but can’t because it isn’t safe,” she says. “I’m going to wait until they can go, too.”

Tools for the future

Linn looks forward to when she can plan parties and host happy hour at the bar for her residents. She’s grateful that she found a job that makes her an essential worker and will help keep her employed even when a pandemic makes things uncertain.

She looks back on her time at York College and knows this wasn’t necessarily the field she thought she’d end up in, but she’s still happy to be there.

“I have a lot of skills that apply to what I’m doing today,” Linn says. “York College taught me to be versatile and to take care of people, creating experiences that bring them joy. And that’s what I get to do.”