Hospitality may be one of the most popular majors at UNLV, but few students get the guidance that Epicurean Charitable Foundation offers. Founded in 2001, ECF provides full-ride scholarships each year to a handful of Clark County School District seniors planning to pursue hospitality degrees. But ECF does much more than just financially support its students—it charts a path for scholarship recipients to join the industry, pairing them with one of the organization’s 20-plus hospitality professionals who serve as mentors.
Nearly every one of the program’s alumni has obtained a position in hospitality after graduation. And right now the board is seeking new mentees for the fall, with the March 13 application deadline right around the corner.
In its 16-year run, ECF has routinely given up to $48,000 to each of its students, who must demonstrate financial need, have a strong GPA and participate in extracurricular activities. Mentor Sean DiCicco, ECF president and senior vice president of food and beverage at Caesars Entertainment, says that it’s not all about grades.
“It’s more about the individual, not just one [criterion],” DiCicco says. “What we look for is someone who is focused and knows what they really want. We want to maintain and keep our reputation of choosing the best students. If we’re going to invest in them, we want to know they’ll get to the finish line.”
DiCicco has mentored five students in his time with ECF. Last year his mentee was Anna Tymoshevska, a sophomore in UNLV’s hospitality management program who moved to the U.S. four years ago from Ukraine. Ranked No. 20 out of 534 students at her graduation from Henderson’s Basic High School, she now works as a front desk agent at The Palazzo—and that’s in between her ECF obligations, which include volunteering for annual events such as the ECF Golf Classic, being held this year on May 8, and the M.E.N.U.S. fundraising gala in the fall. Scholarship recipients also complete a minimum of 60 hours of volunteer work each year and are required to attend regular meetings with their mentors.
“The events really help us learn more about what it means to be in hospitality,” Tymoshevska says. “You can’t get that anywhere else. In hospitality, you can’t just read books. It’s not that kind of industry.”