SPOKANE, Wash. - Lunchtime: it brings 30 minutes of bliss to the cafeteria full of middle school students, but also to Malik Cheek, the cafeteria attendant standing by, handing out slices of pizza.
Cheek is giving back to Glover Middle School, the same school he went to years ago.
"You walk in at work and here comes Malik and he's got the biggest smile ever and he never, ever grumbles about doing anything and he's always willing to do it," said Sheri Webber, Malik's boss. "What better employee can you get than that?"
Webber asked herself that question this summer. After two years in an unpaid internship with Spokane Public Schools, it was almost time for Malik to move on -- but Webber couldn't imagine her cafeteria without him.
"He was so charming and so good at what he did," Webber said. "We didn't want to let him go."
So they didn't. Webber successfully pushed for Cheek's promotion to cafeteria attendant, a paid position that puts Cheek in the lunchroom Monday through Friday.
Cheek could not have been happier to accept, because he was finally in a place where his disability wasn't seen as a disadvantage. He has Down Syndrome and is non-verbal. But even if he can't talk with others, his mom Kris Scott told KXLY4 his smile and work ethic speak volumes.
"He's just an all-around great kid," Scott said. "He wants to learn, he loves to learn, and his disability doesn't hold him back."
Cheek helps prepare breakfast and lunch for 600 students each day and does his best to connect with each one -- not only serving them lunch, but showing them that we're not really all that different.
"Children out there with disabilities... they want to do the same things that mom and dad and their brothers and sisters do," Scott said. "And they need to be given that opportunity."
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