Clemson residents may not have been fans of construction downtown, but all of that hard work is paying off for the newest members of the downtown business community: The Shepherd Hotel. Not only will it be the newest hotel for Death Valley visitors, but the hotel is partnering with ClemsonLIFE to provide jobs for students with intellectual disabilities.
With significant progress underway, the hotel held an event called a “roof wetting,” a tradition from Bermuda that signifies progress on the project. They also held the event to honor ClemsonLIFE, the campus organization they are working with.
ClemsonLIFE is a program which works with college-aged students with intellectual disabilities to develop the skills to become independent members of the community and have successful careers. This post-secondary transition program’s main goal is to help transition students to independent living. They also have employment opportunities for students, which is where the Shepherd Hotel comes in.
As of now, ClemsonLIFE has around 30 local businesses who provide jobs to students in the program, but the hotel will be one of its largest partners offering almost 40 employment spots to members. Not only does such employment help students become more independent, but they also teach students marketable skills for their future careers. It works, too, with 95% of program graduates being employed.
For CEO and co-founder Rick Hayduk, this collaboration is very close to the heart. Hayduk has two daughters with Down Syndrome, with his older daughter graduating from ClemsonLIFE. While he has been in the hotel business for years, he says this hotel is special. Employing young adults like his daughters has always been a major part of the plan, even in the early planning stages.
“It started to have soul when we started to train the students,” said Hayduk. “We wanted it to be a highly engaged part of the community, not just the University. We set out to build a hotel that we would be proud of — that the community would be proud of.”
Erica Walters, director of ClemsonLIFE, is happy to be partnering with the new hotel. A big draw of the collaboration is the variety of jobs students could work based upon their interests. Juniors and seniors in the program work around 12 hours per week.
“It’s all their skill set,” said Walters. “You may have some [students] that are very meticulous and want things in order, and that’s perfect… or you have some that will be greeters, and some that will work in different parts of the hotel.”
The Shepherd Hotel, and a new restaurant on the main level, Delish Sisters, is tentatively scheduled to open on April 1, though that isn’t yet set in stone.