The leading human rights organization for all individuals with Down syndrome.

National Down Syndrome Society
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New York New York 10017
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Austin's Story

Austin's Story


Underwood for President! 

Austin Underwood has always dreamt of owning and running his own business, but little did he know he'd go from a college student to President of Austin's Underdawgs in a few short years. 

Austin was born with an entrepreneurial spirit, something he inherited from his mother and father, Jan and Joe, who have owned and operated their own companies.  Much like his entrepreneurial spirit, Austin was born with Down syndrome, and because of how his extra chromosome expresses itself, he is unable to do things like read or drive a car. However, that was not Austin's and his family's focus when they were planning for his future. They knew Austin needed a job that focused on his abilities rather than his disabilities because the goal was for Austin to be as independent as possible. 

Jan knew that independence on the job would only be possible through specialized training. She researched programs that would be a good fit with Austin's abilities and interests, and the Special Services Occupational Training Program at Eastern New Mexico University—Roswell fit both Austin's skills and love of cooking.

First and foremost, the Eastern New Mexico University (ENMU) Program taught Austin to live independently and separately from his family.  He was thrown into a living situation where he had to  apply the skills he had learned growing up to depend on himself. His daily life at ENMU had adequate supervision for his special needs, but ultimately, Austin just grew into an adult. He was responsible for getting to his classes and his job practicum, and he was responsible for making food, entertainment and socialization choices. 

While at ENMU, Austin learned how to prep food through his vocational practicum at the school dining hall. He was so successful at his job that he eventually became the Stir Fry Station prep chef. Little did he know this experience was a stepping stone to becoming President Underwood. 

His college life wasn't all about cooking, because college wouldn’t be college without a social life. Austin was part of many clubs, but his favorite was the Special Ski Team. Austin joined the Special Ski Team and traveled with the team each Friday to Ruidoso for a day of skiing January through February. 

Much like everyone's college experiences, Austin learn to ride a city bus, keep up with his belongings, live with roommates, and just general life lessons. Next thing they knew, Austin had graduated from the Special Services Occupational Training Program at Eastern New Mexico University—Roswell with a certification as prep chef.

Before leaving for ENMU, Austin had gone to work for the summer at Albertson’s Grocery as a bagger and carry-out clerk. After graduating from ENMU, he returned to Albertson’s where he worked for 13 years. However, one job has never been enough for Austin, so during his work at Albertson’s, Austin also worked at his Mother's store doing odd jobs several hours a week and at another café, until it closed. 

Austin always loved the restaurant business, which is why he went to ENMU, and in 2013 he was ready to dive in. That year, Campisi’s of Dallas opened a restaurant in Fort Worth, Austin boldly asked the owner, David Campisi, for a job while dining. David hired him! And now Austin is a “family” member the customers have grown to love, support and expect to see at each visit. His continual experience at Campisi's helps polish his restaurant customer service, a skill that is paramount to Austin's Underdawgs. However, it was his late grandmother, Maw, who ignited his passion for cooking years before. 

Austin asked Maw one day to help with her special banana pudding, a dessert the Underwood's would have at family dinners" know, when you had to have a dessert at the end of each meal!". He then asked her for the ingredients and started making it himself. He messed up a few batches, but finally got the hang of it.  

Since Austin does not read, he purchases everything from branding, so he mixed up Eagle brand milk and Evaporated milk a couple of times, but once he gets something locked in, he remembers.  The invention of the iPhone, Facetime and Siri have simplified his life tremendously.  Also, we take photos of all products from him deciding on milk to what temperature to set the oven. Technology is amazing! 

His love of food had him yearning to own his own restaurant. Some 16 years later, with the help of technology, his family and friends, and an amazing community to support him.  Austin opened Austin's Underdawgs and became President Underwood. 

Austin is currently working towards an even loftier goal, spurred on by his recent audition for ABC’s Shark Tank series, an Underdawgs Franchise Opportunity.

Underdawgs Mission is to provide an innovative self-employment opportunity for families who have adult children or relatives with specials need.  We believe our first responsibility is to those people who have difficulty securing meaningful jobs that provide income, purpose and security.  Our franchise model is created for families to have peace of mind for their special needs family member as they enter the workforce.

Through a long-term commitment to this mission, we will be known as a company that has brought self-employment opportunities to a segment of our society that often is left behind in the mainstream workforce.

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