Javier Rodriguez, of Egg Harbor Township, helped friends start a restaurant in Puerto Rico in 1996. Ever since he has wanted to go into the business.

“I enjoyed it so much,” said the 39-year-old. “I always had it in the back of my mind.”

He knew he wanted to cook French cuisine, which is his favorite. He has never been to France, but had his first great French food in Philadelphia, he said.

Instead he started a tax preparation business, while working as the clerk in the property and evidence room at the Atlantic City Police Department. He had his eye on the Academy of Culinary Arts at Atlantic Cape Community College, but felt he should wait until his wife finished college.

She graduated in 2011, and is now a Spanish teacher. Then he worried about student loan debt, assuming scholarships would go to students just graduating from high school. But he gave it a shot, and won a full Vince DeFinis Restaurant Gala Scholarship, which awards $6,000 for each of the three semesters he’ll need to attend to get his degree. He started in September, and will continue working while going to school, he said.

Rodriguez earned a bachelor’s of Business Administration in Accounting from the InterAmerican University in Puerto Rico in 1995. His business knowledge should prove helpful in running a restaurant, he said.

Rodriguez and his wife have two children, ages 6 and 2.

Athlete gets key to city

Sea Isle Mayor Leonard Desiderio presented a key to the city to Special Olympics athlete and lifelong Sea Isle resident Maureen Larsen on Oct. 17. Larsen will represent the United States during the 2013 Winter Special Olympic Games in South Korea as a member of the U.S. Alpine Ski Team.

She is one of only three Special Olympians from New Jersey and one of 150 Olympians nationwide who will attend the South Korea games in January 2013, a city spokesperson said.

Southern Regional students commended

Seniors Allyson Liu and Patricia Terhune have been named Commended Students in the 2013 National Merit Scholarship Program, said Southern Regional High School Principal Eric Wilhelm.

About 34,000 Commended Students throughout the nation are recognized for their exceptional academic promise, placing among the top five percent of more than 1.5 million students who entered this year’s competition by taking the 2011 Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test.

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Contact Michelle Brunetti Post:

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