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Utah County's newest cafe helps students with autism succeed

Utah County's newest cafe helps students with autism succeed (Photo: Daniel Woodruff / KUTV)

(KUTV) A new restaurant in Utah County is a very -- very -- big deal.

That is, for those teens whose lives will change because of it.

The Pantera Caffe held its grand opening Thursday at Spectrum Academy, a charter high school in Pleasant Grove where most students have autism.

The cafe, which sits on the school's second floor, is staffed with those students. They work as greeters, cooks, and waiters -- and they're treated like real employees.

"It feels kind of like I'm an adult working," said Dawson Bott, a 16-year-old student who worked as a cook the night of the grand opening.

The cafe was made possible by Vivint. The company donated $25,000 to build and make it possible. Liz Banner, Spectrum Academy's principal, said it will serve students and help them prepare for life after school.

"They can go out in the community and they can get a job and keep a job," Banner said.

It feels like a real job. Just ask Curtis Loftus, a 16-year-old who spent his evening Thursday waiting tables. It wasn't easy, but he picked it up pretty quickly. And he's quickly taking pride in his school's newest addition.

"All the other restaurants are still pretty cool, no offense," Curtis said, smiling, "but still, this here is great."

The principal said the cafe gives students the confidence they need to succeed.

"It just brings tears to my eyes to know that they are showing people that they can do this," Banner said.

The cafe will be open every day, serving teachers and staff at the school. Each day will also give the students a chance to prove themselves in ways they may have never imagined.

Jarom Curtis, a 16-year-old greeter, is excited about the new cafe.

"It makes me feel like we've come through a long way to get this far," he said.

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