AUBURN — When graduating kindergartners at Casey Park Elementary School ceremony held up signs saying what they want to do when they grow up, Kaiden Zmarthie's sign said he wanted to work at Mesa Grande Taqueria.
Fast forward a couple months and Kaiden, 6, worked for a short time Friday afternoon at the restaurant's Auburn location with his big brother, Tyler Wilkinson, who has been employed there for around two years.
Jim Daddabbo, managing partner for the restaurant, said that once he heard a student wanted to work there, he wanted to bring them in to help them reach their dream a little early, even before he found out the child was the little brother of an employee.
"How many chances do you get a lifetime to just make a kid's day just for the heck of it, right?" Daddabbo said.
Daddabbo said he hopped to inspire Kaiden to stay in school and do his best and to tell the boy that once he becomes 16 he can come back and have a job.
Before Kaiden walked in, manager Chris Adessa said the plan was to have the student actually go through an entire order just like any other worker would.
Shortly after arriving, Kaiden was presented with a hat and a choice of a Mesa Grande shirt to wear in either red, green or black. He opted for green, the same color his brother was wearing.
Wilkinson, 17, helped the junior worker make his first order. Kaiden was dead serious, speaking very little with a half-frown on his face. He looked at ingredients like cheese intently as he was grabbed each part of the order.
Kaiden cracked a visible smile when he used an opener to take top off of a glass Coca-Cola bottle. Wilkinson, with a consistent smile, walked Kaiden through the entire process, cheerfully saying when they needed to do things like take their gloves off.
As the brothers took more orders at the register, Adessa said he was impressed Wilkinson was actually showing his brother parts of the process a normal employee would have to do, like dabbing a bill with a marker to make sure it wasn't counterfeit.
Wilkinson asked Kaiden if he was having a good time, to which he softly said he was.
Wilkinson was flattered and thrilled Kaiden looked up enough to him to want to do the same job.
"I really like that I put that much of an impact on him," Wilkinson said.
At one point, Daddabbo said, "Kaiden, you're hired," to which Adessa joked that the boy could take Daddabbo's job. He nodded, smiled and said that he wouldn't mind taking a break.