MANSFIELD - Christopher LeVangie is a young man on his way up.
And that's saying a lot, considering the 24-year-old was born with Down syndrome, an intellectual disability that might have held back a less determined person.
Two-and-a-half months ago, LeVangie, oldest son of Donatella LeVangie, so impressed the staff at the Renaissance Hotel at Patriot Place in Foxboro that he was hired on the spot to bus tables 20 hours a week at the hotel's high end restaurant.
In that short space of time, he's already received a raise and been given a chance to learn cooking alongside the restaurant's executive chef.
LeVangie's mom said that while some employers were hesitant to offer him a job, she knew her son would succeed if given a chance.
"We've always had high expectations for Christopher," said LeVangie, who was told he had Down syndrome when he was an infant. "We have a saying we like to use. 'Don't dis my abilities."
LeVangie and her four children moved to Mansfield a year ago, but Christopher had already demonstrated his determination to do well. When he graduated from Woburn High School in 2009, he was the only student on an individualized education plan to earn an academic achievement award.
While attending Woburn schools, Christopher was a standout in the high school's Launch program, a work experience and life skills class designed to prepare disabled students for life after high school. Christopher's teacher in Woburn, Pam Ciaccio, said his success is an example of what intellectually challenged people can achieve.
"They're wonderful people," Ciaccio said of the LeVangie family. "They set expectations for Christopher, and they held him accountable. People like Christopher want to be successful and are enthusiastic about showing up for work every day."
Christopher LeVangie said he enjoys his work, which ranges from clearing tables to sweeping, room service and interacting with customers. He said he's guided by a simple principle.
"Even if there's nobody looking, do the right thing," he said.
That kind of work ethic, to say nothing of his personality, has made Christopher a popular employee at work.
"Everybody there has just been wonderful," said Christopher's mom.
Her son was even sought out by members of the Patriots cheerleaders who wanted to pose with the hotel's newest superstar.
"They were fighting over me," he grinned.
The only thing to equal that, he said, would be bumping into Tom Brady. He's hoping.
Getting to this point hasn't been easy for Christopher or his family. Over the years he's undergone 14 surgeries to correct physical disorders that accompanied Down syndrome.
Christopher's mom says her son has come a long way, especially considering the accepted wisdom about Down syndrome children back when he was born.
"I kept hearing about all the things he wouldn't be able to do, not what he could do," she said.
Donatella LeVangie says her initial shock over learning her son had Down syndrome turned to acceptance over years filled with love and her son's constant efforts.
"Back then, I wondered why this had happened to us," she said. "Now I see that I was blessed."