Amanda Schwengel

September 25, 2019

Food and Hospitality

VIDEO: A ProStart to a culinary career

AJ Maldonado’s dreams of earning a college degree and owning a food truck are accelerating thanks to the Colorado ProStart hospitality education program.

Amanda Schwengel

September 25, 2019


AJ Maldonado is truckin’ through Metropolitan State University of Denver’s restaurant management program.

That’s because the 19-year-old Northglenn High School graduate enrolled in the University’s School of Hospitality with several college credits and three culinary certifications in hand thanks to his participation in Colorado ProStart.

The Colorado ProStart hospitality education program serves more than 900 students from 35 Colorado high schools with a restaurant management, culinary arts and business economics curriculum taught by industry professionals. Students receive dual high school and college academic credit at MSU Denver through the program, which is run by the Colorado Restaurant Association and the National Restaurant Association Education Foundation.

“The ProStart program actually gave me a huge step up from everybody else,” Maldonado said. “So, when I first came to MSU (Denver) I was able to skip a couple courses and I’m actually one of the youngest students in most of my courses in culinary.”

But Maldonado didn’t just arrive on the Auraria Campus with the ProStart advantage – he also embarked on his education with five years of experience working in his father’s Mile High City Sliders food truck.

Maldonado’s father quit his job and opened the food truck in 2014, and Maldonado quickly found himself hooked on the food truck life, he said. Now, even as he works towards his degree, Maldonado is working to open his own food truck business.

“The food truck community is just so wonderful. They’re just so inclusive, they’re more than willing to help each other,” he said. “It’s wonderful to be able to be a part of that.”

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