Teagan Holland College Access Story | Valencia College Stories (2024)

Teagan Holland College Access Story | Valencia College Stories (1)

Leading the charge:

VC grad pursues career in hospitality management, thanks to Disney Aspire

— by Linda Shrieves

When Teagan Holland was in high school in Massachusetts, his practical side told him to earn a business degree and join the work world. But his adventurous side wanted to travel.

So Teagan began thinking out of the box. Why not study hospitality management, he thought, so he could combine his love of travel and study business at the same time?

And he figured, if he was going to study hospitality management, why not study at the epicenter of hospitality in the United States – in Orlando, Florida?

“I came to Valencia College just to be around the hospitality scene in Orlando itself,” says Teagan. “At other schools elsewhere in the country, you learn about hospitality management -- and then go somewhere else to work.”

That’s what led the now 20-year-old Holland to leave Massachusetts to study at .

But Teagan’s story doesn’t stop there.

When Teagan arrived at Valencia College in August 2021, he immediately got involved on campus. He lived at the Downtown Campus, in student housing in UnionWest.

And by October 2021, he had landed a job at Disney World.

There, he works 30 hours a week, driving trams and working on the parking team at the Disney’s Animal Kingdom Theme Park. He usually works four days each week, usually Thursday through Sunday, which leaves him free for classes Monday through Wednesday.

Teagan opted to join the parking and transportation team because he’d already worked in restaurants while in high school – and he wanted exposure to a different side of the hospitality industry. At Disney World, he figured, he’d learn more about the theme park business. But that wasn’t the only benefit.

By August of 2022, Teagan had established Florida residency and was officially a Disney Aspire student, meaning that the theme park giant pays the cost of his tuition.

“Disney Aspire covers all my tuition upfront and reimburses me for my books and class-related fees,” Teagan says. “And it’s all paid upfront. Some other companies reimburse you, but at Disney, they pay all the costs upfront.”

In May, Teagan graduated from Valencia College and is transferring to the University of Central Florida’s Rosen School of Hospitality, where Disney’s Aspire program will continue to pay his tuition.

Teagan Holland College Access Story | Valencia College Stories (2)

Holland graduated with his Hospitality and Tourism Management Associate in Science (A.S.) degree and attended the Spring 2024 Valencia College Commencement ceremony.

Join the club

Between classes and work, Teagan was busy, but when he arrived at Valencia as a freshman, he immediately joined the Valencia Hospitality Society, a club and service organization for hospitality majors.

Club members volunteer to help at many events in the Orlando area, including the PGA Tour’s Arnold Palmer Invitational golf tournament, where they served as servers in the VIP tent. The club members also volunteer at several other high-profile events in the area, including Give Kids the World fundraisers and the annual Barbecue in the Park, hosted by the Orlando Economic Partnership.

During his first year in the club, Teagan organized a “Friendsgiving” event at the Downtown Campus, to host a traditional American Thanksgiving meal for international students and any American students who couldn’t go home for the holiday.

“I wasn’t going home for Thanksgiving that year and my parents weren’t coming down,” says Teagan. “I was living in UnionWest at the time and I thought, there have to be other students who weren’t going home either because it’s such a short break.”
The first year, it was a surprising success – and the event continues to grow. “We’re starting to see it collegewide. We’ve worked with housing and we post it on TVs around the campus. It’s fun for international students – who’d never had an Americanized Thanksgiving.”

Over the past year, as president of the club, Teagan helped organize the volunteer events – and the club’s annual trip to Chicago for the National Restaurant Show. During the show, hospitality students learn about the food and beverage industry from an insider’s perspective. Teagan and other club members also helped organize the trip, booking flights, hotels and buying event tickets.

For his work with the Valencia Hospitality Society, in January, Teagan flew to Los Angeles, where he was honored at the American Hotel and Lodging Association’s annual gala, the Night of a Thousand Stars Gala. There, AHLA officials recognized for being a top candidate for the Scholar of the Year award – which is remarkable for a student from a two-year college.

Officials at AHLA were impressed with Teagan’s leadership – and the fact that he was finalist has them reconsidering how they award the scholarships.

Teagan Holland College Access Story | Valencia College Stories (3)

One of Holland’s responsibilities at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Theme Park is driving the parking lot tram.

“Teagan was the top community college applicant,” said Andrew Whitson of the AHLA. “The scoring system is tough for a community college to compete with 4-year students since it considers years of experience within the industry and level of involvement. Teagan was just a few decimal points away from being one of the award winners.”
Teagan was so impressive showing, Whitson said, that the organization may expand the scholarship program to include at least one community college recipient in the future.

“This is an amazing feat ,” Whitson added.

At the gala, Teagan and the other 125 student ambassadors from 30 U.S. colleges had the chance to meet a number of industry professionals, including the CEOs of Marriott and Hyatt and other hotel chains.

At that event, Teagan cemented his feeling that Valencia College was a good choice for him.

“At a lot of other schools, the professors have never worked in the industry. They’re business professors,” Teagan says. “Valencia’s faculty have a lot of real-world experience. They either work in the industry now or they have worked in the industry. They take us out of the classroom a lot to apply what we’re learning at hotels and restaurants.”

As for his future after college, Teagan thinks the hotel industry is appealing. “I’d like to work with other hotel companies from around the country – and get the opportunity to grow within a company,” he says.

Teagan Holland College Access Story | Valencia College Stories (4)

In addition to driving parking trams, Holland is also a spieler, letting guests know important information such as where they are parked and general park information.

Teagan Holland College Access Story | Valencia College Stories (2024)

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