Danielle Rico learned to enjoy school at Middlesex Community College. While she struggled in high school, Middlesex was her second chance. At MCC, Rico started excelling in classes, gained practical experience in the field she wanted to pursue for her career, and connected with professors who helped guide her to her next steps. She also happened to meet her best friend.
After graduating from Middlesex in 2012 from the Hospitality Management program, Rico transferred to Lasell College to receive a bachelor’s degree in Hospitality and Event Management. While in school, she was balancing her coursework, a full-time job at a local hotel, and raising her infant daughter. Now she works as the Director of Sales and Events at Kimball Farms in Westford.
Kim Morrissey – MCC’s Program Coordinator for Hospitality, Culinary Arts and Travel Service – helped Rico succeed throughout her time in the program. Even now, Rico will often reach out to Morrissey for recommendations of MCC students and alumni when she is hiring new staff at Kimball Farm. Most importantly, having a mentor at MCC who supported her without judgement made a huge difference in Rico’s approach to school.
“My personal story – going from someone who hated high school, then got pregnant in college, and somehow turning into someone who received straight A’s and loved school – is an important story to tell,” she said. “I want other people out there who are in a similar situation as I was to know that it is possible to succeed, graduate and excel in life even when unexpected challenges are thrown your way.
“I always thought having my daughter so young was going to make it impossible to finish school and find a good job – but the complete opposite happened. Having her gave me a reason to try harder and do better in school and in my career.”
One of the best parts of the hospitality program for Rico was the internship requirement. The knowledge and skills she learned from this real-world experience continues to help her in her job. For her internship, Rico worked at a hotel and was able to show her coworkers and managers that she was serious about working in the hospitality industry. From age 15, Rico knew this was the right industry for her and she appreciated being able to prove herself to other professionals as she learned the ins and outs of the job.
“This is the only industry I have ever worked in and I don’t see that changing,” she said. “I am a people person and I enjoy making other people happy. When I am planning events with clients, this is what I get to do all day long!”
Rico recently joined MCC’s Advisory Board for Hospitality and Culinary Arts and had her first meeting on Zoom due to the pandemic. She enjoys having the opportunity to network with other professionals and help students on their paths. At an MCC alumni webinar this past September, she talked to students about her experience in the hospitality industry – in particular how COVID-19 presented new challenges for her at work, especially in the beginning.
As Kimball Farms is outdoors, the company was able to reopen with new restrictions just a few months into the pandemic. While her department is used to hosting over 600 events a year and had to cut back, Rico said they were creative in coming up with new ideas. She believes flexibility is an important skill to learn in the hospitality industry.
“We never used to offer children’s birthday parties, but this is something new we developed this year and offered our guests,” she said. “While I don’t foresee COVID-19 going away very soon, I do remain hopeful that things will go back to somewhat normal next year!”
Overall, Rico loved her MCC experience – from the people she met to the opportunities that were provided to her.
“MCC is willing to give people a chance,” she said. “They give students a great platform to succeed. Having professors like Kim definitely helps too!”
Whether working towards an associate degree, earning credits for an advanced degree or upgrading skills, MCC has students covered with 20 business degree and certificate programs – including bookkeeping, payroll, sales, automotive or aviation mechanics, human resources, management, marketing, retail buying, hotel management, convention planning, tourism and launch your own business.
MCC’s Business program helps students go into the workforce or transfer to four-year schools with its award-winning and affordable offerings, small class sizes and flexible schedules. Visit https://www.middlesex.mass.edu/discover/dyp_business.aspx for more information and to discover your path to a Business degree at Middlesex.
MCC is celebrating 50 years! If you have ever taken a class at MCC, you are an alum! To share your story – and join in on the 50th anniversary celebrations – contact Amy Lee, Director of Annual Giving and Alumni Relations, at 978-656-3028 or [email protected].
Visit www.middlesex.mass.edu/alumni/ for more information and to join the Alumni Association.
Discover your path at Middlesex Community College. As one of the largest, most comprehensive community colleges in Massachusetts, we educate, engage and empower a diverse community of learners. MCC offers more than 80 degree and certificate programs – plus hundreds of noncredit courses – on our campuses in Bedford and Lowell, and online. Middlesex Community College: Student success starts here!