My name is La Toya Wallace and I am from the tiny twin Island State of Antigua and Barbuda. My childhood dream was to be a hospitality professional, but my parents were not fond of the idea and I was encouraged to pursue a “white collar” job instead. As a result, I became a teacher and have spent the last twenty years positively impacting the youth, but I never grew out of love with my affinity for the hospitality industry.
After much deliberation, I decided to launch into the field. That decision led me to enrol into the undergraduate program at the School of Hospitality Management and Culinary Arts at Monroe College. I couldn’t decide whether I wanted to work in the front of the house or back of the house so I opted to undertake two degrees at once as I felt like I was playing catch. I applied for the undergraduate Hospitality Management program as my major and the Baking and Pastry Arts program as my minor.
The reality of funding my tuition hit me after the joy of being accepted subsided. To be honest, money is a scarce commodity as I am a single parent and a civil servant. How was I going to pay for school? I couldn’t afford the financial burden of getting a loan to cover the cost, so I began to research scholarship foundations, and I came across Caribbean Hotels and Tourism Association Education Foundation (CHTAEF) and decided to give it a try. I applied in 2016 and was successful.
This scholarship enabled me to not only pursue my dreams of attending college, but it was my trajectory into the industry. I was able to connect with other giants in the industry and it gave me the connections that I needed to advance my career. An opportunity came up in 2017 to participate in a study abroad program to Italy, and I knew that I had to capitalize on this. But funding was needed again, so I re-applied in 2017 and was awarded another scholarship grant.
Italy was an amazing experience! I went on a food tour of the Northern Region of Italy and did an internship at Cast Alimenti: being tutored by the Master chefs of Italy was a mind blowing experience. I learnt how to make fresh pasta, pizza, croissants, bread, desserts and pastries, and cake decoration on my internship. In addition, I got the first-hand experience of seeing cheese, wine, prosciutto, caviar, rice, olive oil and flour being produced. The wine tasting, cheese tasting, and chocolate tasting was an added benefit.
Being the recipient of the scholarship grant from CHTAEF has enriched my life. Had it not been for this institution, I would not be the holder of a double university degree, nor would I have been able to participate in the study abroad to Italy. I am eternally indebted to CHTAEF for making my dreams a reality. Today, I am better equipped to mould the upcoming cadre of hospitality professionals in Antigua and Barbuda.
I implore you to be a beacon of light to others by giving to the CHTA foundation.
Learn how you can donate and/or support one of our fundraising initiatives here.