Hero Central: Tara Gilio overcomes disability, cooks at Oystercatchers restaurant

4:10 PM, Nov 5, 2010   |    comments
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Tara Gilio
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Tampa, Florida -- October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month and for people with disabilities, gaining employment can bring them closer to being fully valued members of the community.

"I've applied at so many places and I've been turned down so many times, but I never gave up,"said Tara Gilio, a cook at Oystercatchers restaurant.

Gilio was diagnosed with a learning disability in the second grade, a disability that would limit her ability to read and write. 

"I used to stutter in my classes and when I would read a report, I would repeat things over and over again," Gilio said.

After graduating from Hudson High School with a special diploma, she had trouble landing a job. 

"When I graduated from high school, I was very shy and afraid to try things, because I didn't know if I was going to do it wrong. And if I did it wrong, would they not want me," Gilio said.

She had an interest in food service and enrolled in a program offered by Hands On Educational Services, which partners with Grand Hyatt Tampa Bay

"Tara came to our program, did a fabulous job training in the main kitchen with some of the best chefs in the industry, and she had such a great attitude that they offered her a part time job," said John Ficca, the Director of Hands On Educational Services.

After several promotions, Gilio is working full-time as a cook at Oystercatchers, and giving back to the program. 

"All the students that come through from Hands On, I'm able to teach. So I'm not just fulfilling just one goal which is cooking, I'm teaching and on top of the Hands On Education and Hyatt, I'm able to travel. So I'm doing three things I wanted to do in my life that I was told that the opportunity to do was really limited because of my skills, because of my disability."

Gilio reads at the level of a fourth grader, but she hasn't let that stop her from achieving her dreams of working in the food industry. 

"Your dreams are your dreams. If you give up on your dreams, then what do you have to look forward to in the future? And the future is what you got to live for."

For Gilio, she has dreams of becoming an executive chef in the future.

If you would like to nominate someone to be a Hero, please email me at mbeal@wtsp.com.

Melvin Beal, 10 News

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