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Explore Charleston Launches 2nd Year of Program for Minority College Students



Press Release

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

ICEP includes a ten-week leadership development program that complements the paid internships. Students participate in a weekly curriculum led by Explore Charleston that introduces them to the community and local culture, fosters interaction with civic and business leaders, cultivates peer relationships, and develops business and communication skills to support personal and professional growth.

“We’ve maintained a commitment to raising awareness and taking action for diversity, equity and inclusion through our Heart for Hospitality initiative. The growth of ICEP represents meaningful progress toward achieving one of our strategic goals: encouraging opportunities to recruit and develop individuals from diverse backgrounds into tourism and hospitality. Our industry should reflect the community, but that doesn’t mean employees and future leaders have to be from the Lowcountry,” said Helen Hill, CEO of Explore Charleston.

“A lot of workforce recruitment programs focus on entry-level positions. While those are certainly important, ICEP aims to help fill a gap we identified in growing the diversity of our regional workforce at the management level. It’s critical we reinforce career pathways that exist in this industry,” said Marc Gibson, Explore Charleston’s Director of Inclusion and Engagement.

The ICEP concept originated in 2020 with support from Explore Charleston’s Board of Governors and insight from the Heart for Hospitality Steering Committee. Since then, Explore Charleston has worked continuously to build relationships with HBCUs and other universities, recruit candidates, and identify local travel industry partners interested in hosting interns.

The ICEP class of 2022 includes 14 students from ten universities who are completing internships with ten area employers.

“The reception we received from students, schools and employers over the last 12 months exceeded our expectations and the strong response in year one. We are encouraged by the increased participation and grateful for the commitment demonstrated by all involved,” said Gibson.

Eight HBCUs are represented this summer, twice the number from 2021. South Carolina is home to four of the participating HBCUs, compared to one in the inaugural class.

HBCUs represented in 2022 include Benedict College (Columbia, SC), Claflin University (Orangeburg, SC),  Morris College (Sumter, SC), University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff (Pine Bluff, AR), University of the District of Columbia (Washington, D.C.), University of Maryland Eastern Shore (Princess Anne, MD), Virginia State University (Petersburg, VA), and Voorhees College (Denmark, SC).

ICEP also welcomes for the first time students from Atlanta Technical College (Atlanta, GA) and College of Charleston (Charleston, SC).

Hilton – Embassy Suites Charleston Harbor and Embassy Suites Historic District, Hilton Garden Inn Charleston Waterfront/Downtown, and Explore Charleston join an existing lineup of employers including The Charleston Place, Charleston County Aviation Authority, Charlestowne Hotels, Hotel Bennett, Kiawah Island Golf Resort, Lowcountry Hotels, and Wild Dunes Resort.

“It is incredible to bring so many stakeholders together as we build off the momentum of a successful first year. Our hope remains that through the internships and ICEP, these impressive students are inspired to continue pursuing careers in travel and hospitality, hopefully in the Charleston area. Our employees are the key to our community’s success, so we’re proud to expand this program and invest in the next generation of industry and community leaders,” said Hill.

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

“One of the biggest hurdles to internships is the housing component. Thanks to the continued support of College of Charleston, we are able to address the need again this year,” said Gibson.

The ICEP program began with orientation on June 1. The program concludes with a pinning ceremony on August 9 at the Riviera Theater.


College / University

Internship Employer

Morgan Best

Virginia State University

Charlestowne Hotels

(HarbourView Inn)

Kyonna Bryant

Atlanta Technical College

Hotel Bennett

Fritza Camille

Univ. of the District of Columbia

Charlestowne Hotels

(The Spectator Hotel and French Quarter Inn)

Lamont Ferrebee

Atlanta Technical College

Charleston Place

Brea Fields

College of Charleston

Charleston County Aviation Authority

Prince Harris II

Virginia State University

Hilton – Embassy Suites Charleston Harbor and Embassy Suites Historic District

Trayvon Harris

Morris College

Hotel Bennett

Trenay Hayes

Univ. of Arkansas at Pine Bluff

Charleston Place

Solomon Jacob

Virginia State University

Lowcountry Hotels

(Hilton Garden Inn/Homewood Suites Summerville)

Bryson Miller

Voorhees University

Explore Charleston

Kelly Nixon

Benedict College

Hilton Garden Inn Charleston Waterfront/Downtown

Colby Powell

Univ. of Maryland Eastern Shore

Kiawah Island Golf Resort

Breyonna Ravenel

Claflin University

Wild Dunes

Olivia Roker

Benedict College

Charlestowne Hotels

(Indigo Inn and Meeting Street Inn)

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