Jose Rosario Avalos, 18, works at Pandy's Marketplace, Santa Rosa High School's store. Press Democrat photo by Beth Schlanker

By KERRY BENEFIELD
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

When Santa Rosa High School senior José Avalos walked into Ron Reichmuth’s class as a freshman, he was kind of a mess, both student and teacher agree.
He had a temper and struggled with anger management. Social situations frustrated him, so he tended to keep to himself.
Yet through a period of intense self-assessment and a desire for increased academic and extracurricular responsibilities, Avalos has emerged as an entrepreneurial star in Reichmuth’s special education class at Santa Rosa High.
“He has gone from a kid who would literally bolt out of the classroom and you wouldn’t see him again to one who has taken leadership roles. He is very bright,” Reichmuth said. “If we could clone him, it would be fabulous.”
Avalos, who has Asperger’s syndrome, which makes it difficult for him to connect with people at times, said he struggled before finding his love of business.
“It’s been very hard for me to be social,” he said. “When I talk, I take things too literal and when I say things, I can offend people.”
But behind the counter at Pandy’s Marketplace on the quad at Santa Rosa High, Avalos takes and fills orders for drinks and snacks in rapid-fire succession and with a smile for customers.
“Believe me, it was not easy the first time I did it. Now it comes naturally to me,” he said.
“He’s unique and probably one of the kindest guys you will ever meet,” Reichmuth said. “He has a great sense of loyalty and is a good friend. People know they can trust him.”
Avalos, whose strongest subject is math, is on track to be the first in his immediate family to graduate from high school. He plans to attend Santa Rosa Junior College and dreams of owning his own chain of convenience stores.
Reichmuth said Avalos has the skills and drive to pull it off.
“We run eight businesses and every business we run, José wants to be a part of,” he said.
At Pandy’s Marketplace, Avalos is a fixture. He shows up even on his days off.
“He’s responsible for inventory control, responsible for cash handling. He does the money count going in and out, he pays team leaders,” Reichmuth said.
Avalos also leads a team of landscapers that tend to Santa Rosa High’s 45 acres, works with a team of auto detailers and raises his hand for just about any job Reichmuth can give him.
Avalos said the class — and the responsibility — has changed him.
“It does feel good,” he said. “It is one of those things where you don’t know how you got there, but you got there.”
Staff Writer Kerry Benefield writes an education blog at extracredit. blogs.pressdemocrat.com. She can be reached at 526-8671 or kerry. benefield@pressdemocrat.com.

NAME: José Rosario Avalos
Age: 18
Birthplace: Ukiah
Lives with: Mom, Alicia Ramos Avalos; dad, Miguel Avalos; sister, Andrea Avalos, 15.
What’s in his iPod: Maná, The Offspring.
Favorite hobby: Watching soccer games, playing video games.
Dream job: To own a chain of convenience stores.
Favorite food: Most of what his mom makes.