The Stockton Atlantic City Summer Experience gave Michael Mora a chance to live on the beach, work at a casino and take a class.
But that’s not all the junior business management major got out of the program. It also changed his life.
“I was originally a social work major,” the Mount Olive native said. “Then I started working last summer at the Borgata, and I liked the business and management aspect of this, so I switched (his major) over to that.”
Mora is a return student to the program, which debuted last summer with about 140 students and has grown to about 245 this year. The program partners with 15 businesses in the Atlantic City area to provide summer employment.
Students who qualify apply for paying jobs with the partner businesses. If they are hired, the employer also pays for the students to live in Stockton’s Kesselman Hall on the Boardwalk. And the students are provided a free four-credit class centered around work-readiness skills to help the students better understand issues of diversity, equity and inclusion.
“It’s the perfect opportunity,” Mora who is a food and beverage supervisor of in-room dining at the Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa and also works at the indoor pool bar at the casino’s MGM Tower said. “You don’t have to worry about anything. You just get to work. This is the perfect job to go with my major.”
The increase in students is a direct reflection of how successful the program was last year, Brian Jackson, Stockton Atlantic City chief operating officer and a coordinator of the program said.
“We’re really seeing the students more engaged this year,” he said. “They are more interested in the work they are doing, and they appreciate the opportunities that these employers offer them as part of their summer experience.”
Other businesses in the program include AtlantiCare, Bally’s Atlantic City, Caesars Entertainment, the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino, Mighty Writers of Atlantic City and Ocean Casino Resort.
For the Borgata, which hired the most Stockton students at about 70, the program provides a partial solution to an annual concern — finding roughly 500 seasonal employees every summer.
“We certainly got applicants for seasonal positions that are challenging to fill,” Rick Berninger, vice president of Human Resources at Borgata said. “The students are really good. They’re friendly. They are good with customer service. They are eager and willing to learn. Those things go a long way for us.”
Mora is one of about 50 students who returned to the program this summer and kept last year’s job throughout the school year. He also is one of about 30 in the program who works as a supervisor.
“That’s pretty amazing for a college student to be able to say they have that kind of management experience that they can put on their resume,” Jackson said.
Junior Dina Shenouda is new to the program this year, and she has gained management experience as the supervisor of food and beverages at Borgata’s outdoor pool and beer garden.
She loves how the Summer Experience has taught her more about herself and being a better leader, but she wasn’t so sure about the program at the beginning of the summer.
“To be honest, I was so nervous because I’ve never done anything really related to this,” the Phillipsburg native who emigrated to the United States from Egypt at age 9 with her family said. “When you work in hospitality, especially in casinos, it’s a completely different world. I was not ready because I didn’t know what to expect.”
In fact, after the first few days on the job, the political science major thought about quitting.
“I thought I was going to leave the second day,” she said. “I hate change, but there’s no growth without change.”
And now two months in, she not only loves her job and feels like it’s “second nature,” but she’s learned a lot about herself.
“It’s taught me to become a leader,” she said. “Before, I was the type of person who panicked at the smallest thing, but this job has taught me to calm down, breathe and get all the information. It has helped me stay calm in tough situations and how to handle chaos when you are in the middle of chaos.”
Mora also said the job provided by the Summer Experience has given him real-world experience that is invaluable as he chooses his future career.
“You can learn a lot in the classroom, but you learn a lot more hands-on,” he said. “It’s dealing with people and dealing with different situations that are stressful. It’s really educational.”
Of course, it also doesn’t hurt how “insanely nice” it is to live for free at Kesselman Hall, right on the Atlantic City Boardwalk and next to the beach.
“The best thing about this program is that it gives me the ability to enjoy this summer. Even though I’m working, I’m outside and I get to feel the summer vibes. And I get to go to the beach after work,” Shenouda said. “Having free housing lifted a big weight off my shoulders. If I wasn’t part of this program, I wouldn’t have been able to live at the beach.”