TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — A graduate of Steinbrenner High School with special needs landed his dream job of working in the school cafeteria through hard work and a surprise from the school district.
Angel Rosario, 21, has had a love for cooking and kitchens since he was a little boy.
“I was cooking at home,” Angel said. “I take out the trash and I do a great job.”
His parents said it goes down in their kitchen at home.
“He is the king of making pancakes,” Angel Rosario, Sr. said.
“Oh, he can cook,” Jennifer Santiago-Rosario said.
For Angel’s parents, to witness him hit milestones like cooking meals and being vocal about it was huge. Angel was diagnosed with autism at 3 years old.
“We got him services right away,” Jennifer said. “Speech, occupational therapy and he just blossomed from there and hit every milestone. He’s talkative now, but he wasn’t then.”
Jennifer said it took a lot of help and encouragement throughout the years.
“It’s hard for them because they’re looking where to fit in and even as a regular student it’s hard but imagine with autism,” she said.
Angel attended Steinbrenner High School in Lutz. That’s where he put his love for cooking to the test.
“When I was a student we were at the 12+ program,” Angel said.
That program taught him how to prepare food, bake, serve and more. They even went on field trips to Publix where he was able to cook and prepare food. The program is also where he met the school’s managing chef, Rickey Richardson.
“He asked me when is your birthday? I told him and every year since then he says your birthday is coming up right? It’s February I’m like yeah,” Richardson said. “He remembers my birthday and all of the staff members. Every birthday he leads the happy birthday song in English and in Spanish.
It was the bond he built with Richardson and the school’s cooking program that helped Angel realize what his dream job was.
“My dream job is to work in the school lunch,” Angel said.
Prior to graduation, Angel met former Hillsborough County Superintendent Addison Davis. It was then when Davis learned about Angel’s story and his passion for cooking. Davis and the school’s principal worked behind the scenes to create a position for Angel, and they surprised him before he walked across the stage for graduation this past spring.
“We were already a mess with graduation, so when they told us it was the icing on the cake,” Jennifer said.
Angel now works in Student Nutrition Services at Steinbrenner under Chef Rickey.
“He’s excited about being here and I really like that,” Richardson said.
Angel works Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. He said his favorite part of the job is making peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and passing them to the students.
“I love my dream job, it’s the best,” Angel said.
His parents are extremely proud.
“For every dad they want to see their son do better than them,” Angel Rosario, Sr. said. “I am super grateful, humble and proud of my boy.”
Angel has aspirations of becoming a chef. Chef Rickey said he will begin mentoring him and teaching him how to become a chef.