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Explore Charleston Launches Program for Minority College Students



Press Release

Explore Charleston introduced the inaugural class of its new Intern Cultural Enrichment Program (ICEP), an initiative that connects underrepresented minority students, many from historically-black colleges and universities (HBCUs), with world-class internship opportunities in the local travel and hospitality industry.

ICEP is a ten-week leadership development program that complements the paid internships. Students participate in a weekly curriculum that introduces information about the local community and culture, fosters interaction with business and civic leaders, and cultivates peer relationships.

Thirteen students from six universities have been accepted into ICEP and hired for summer 2021 internships with seven area hotels and resorts.

“We’ve maintained a strong commitment to raising awareness and taking action for diversity, equity and inclusion for several years through our Heart for Hospitality efforts. More specifically, one of our strategic goals is to encourage opportunities to recruit and develop individuals from diverse backgrounds into tourism and hospitality. Our industry needs to reflect the community we serve, but that doesn’t mean employees and future leaders have to be from the Lowcountry,” said Helen Hill, CEO of Explore Charleston.

Last fall, with support from Explore Charleston’s Board of Governors and insight from the Heart for Hospitality Steering Committee, ICEP was developed as a way to engage underrepresented minority students at HBCUs and introduce them to the community.

Explore Charleston worked over the winter to build relationships with HBCUs and identify local travel industry partners interested in hosting an intern.

“The reception we received from the schools and local partners was incredible. And during our conversations with industry leaders about ICEP we recognized an opportunity to expand beyond HBCUs to other colleges and universities,” said Marc Gibson, Explore Charleston’s Director of Inclusion and Engagement. “Ultimately, our objective is to recruit the best and brightest minority students who express a genuine interest in our travel industry.”

“We thought our first-year goal of ten interns was ambitious, especially during the pandemic. We’re thrilled to welcome thirteen talented individuals,” Gibson continued.

“It’s exciting to bring so many stakeholders together, see the momentum build and turn a plan into action. Our sincere hope is that the internships and ICEP inspire these students to continue pursuing careers in travel and hospitality, hopefully in the Charleston area. We’re honored to invest in the next generation of industry and community leaders and have every confidence this program will grow in size and scope in the years to come,” said Hill.

HBCUs represented include Benedict College (Columbia, SC), Morgan State University (Baltimore, MD), University of Maryland Eastern Shore (Princess Anne, MD), Virginia State University (Petersburg, VA). Other schools include Johnson and Wales (Charlotte, NC) and University of South Carolina (Columbia, SC).

Internship partners include Belmond Charleston Place, Charleston County Aviation Authority, Charlestowne Hotels, Hotel Bennett, Kiawah Island Golf Resort, Lowcountry Hotels, and Wild Dunes Resort.

There is no cost to the students for participation in ICEP, and Explore Charleston is covering all summer housing costs.

“One of the biggest hurdles to internships is the housing component. Thanks to College of Charleston and Wild Dunes partnerships we are able to address this need,” said Gibson.

The ICEP program began May 25, 2021.

StudentCollege / UniversityInternship Employer
Samuel AlexanderUniversity of Maryland Eastern ShoreCharlestowne Hotels
Germaine ClaytonBenedict CollegeHotel Bennett
Oshan DonegalMorgan State UniversityWild Dunes Resort
Micah EargleUniversity of South CarolinaLowcountry Hotels
Iyanna FreemanBenedict CollegeBelmond Charleston Place
Davion HolderJohnson and Wales UniversityWild Dunes Resort
Paul KernerUniversity of Maryland Eastern ShoreWild Dunes Resort
Brittaney OrrBenedict CollegeCharleston International Airport
Hikaym RiversUniversity of South CarolinaKiawah Island Golf Resort
Darrian RussellBenedict CollegeBelmond Charleston Place
Kayla SmithVirginia State UniversityWild Dunes Resort
Bilal SyedUniversity of Maryland Eastern ShoreWild Dunes Resort
Andrenique WrightBenedict CollegeCharlestowne Hotels

More program information and resources are available here.



  1. Al Tierney

    June 12, 2021 at 8:30 pm

    Kind of racist to exclude people not of color from such an opportunity…


      June 13, 2021 at 3:01 pm

      Apparently, according to critical race theory, huite is just a social construct. Can’t be racist against a construct. So it goes.

  2. HuckleberryTom

    June 13, 2021 at 11:44 am

    Soooo… Explicitly excluding specific persons based on race? Is that where we we’ve returned to. I guess the left is correct, racism is getting worse in America; just not in the direction they claim.

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