ProStart Invitational

Former ProStart Student Shares Lessons Learned

As she heads back to college, Ashley Owens, a 19-year-old hospitality management student at the University of Houston, talks about her future in the restaurant industry.
Ashley Owens with the Educational Foundation's Rob Gifford
Ashley Owens with the Educational Foundation's Rob Gifford

National Restaurant Association

Ashley Owens is one of many students returning to school this fall. A student at the University of Houston, the 19-year-old has big career plans, including owning and operating her own restaurant company.

The daughter of an army veteran, Owens, a former ProStart student and National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation scholarship recipient, recently talked about her studies, furthering her career and what the future may hold:

Why are you seeking a future in the restaurant industry?
Being a military kid, I traveled a lot and was exposed to different people and cultures, but I noticed one thing in particular: people like to gather around food. It creates an environment of smiles, happiness and laughter. I saw that everywhere I went — Belgium, Germany, Greece and France. It created an environment I wanted to be around and manage one day.

You’ve said ProStart made a real impact on you. How?
I enrolled in the ProStart program at my high school, and it gave me a taste of what the industry had to offer. From there, I started looking around at what I could do that involved food and the business side of the industry. That’s how I found hospitality management.

Now that you’re in college, what’s the best part of that experience?
It’s been great meeting people who want to learn and study the same things I’m interested in and nice to see everyone using their creativity to achieve their aspirations. We’re all here to achieve similar goals.

Why is this industry so exciting to you?
There are so many aspects to working in a restaurant: the business side — accounting, hiring the right staff, putting the best menu together. A lot goes into making a restaurant what it is. I think people don’t see that. They just see a waiter bringing food to the table, but so much goes into making that happen.

As a scholarship recipient, what advice do you have for other students?
Taking that ProStart class made me wonder if the NRAEF had scholarships. Sure enough, it did and I clicked the ‘apply’ button. I think more people need to take that initiative. Resources are available. I’m so very thankful for the investment in my future. The sky’s the limit. That scholarship will allow me to turn my dreams into reality.

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