The Thanksgiving Feast hosted by Hockinson High School’s Developmental Resource Room felt like a family reunion.
About 150 people visited the classroom-turned-banquet hall for hugs and conversation along with turkey and cranberries, mashed potatoes and gravy, apple dump cake and more.
“I like the sense of community here,” said Valerie Pool, who introduces herself as “Josh’s mom,” referring to her son, who is among the students who helped prepare and serve the meal. “You feel at home here.”
The Feast is a giant “thank-you” to the community. Students invite teachers—both past and present, their families, fellow HHS students and alumni, and community work supervisors. The latter supervise students in volunteer positions that help them gain employment skills.
“It’s just really great to have a relationship with them, to talk with them, encourage them,” said District 3 Fire Chief Steve Wrightson, who oversees students who vacuum and wash windows at the fire station. “It helps both of us. I think we’re helping them a bit, and they help us a lot.”
Pool says her son Josh has grown a lot through undertaking various projects through school, and it has carried over into his undertaking chores at home. “What I’ve really noticed is he initiates a lot more now,” she said.
Before the guests arrived, some of the students paused to admire their work as Resource Room teacher Leslie Ruby talked them through all they had accomplished. They had begun planning the event at least a month ago, and made invitations, prepared decorations, grocery shopped and made all the food. One girl seemed pleased to be recognized for her floral decorations. A boy, asked what part he had played, shrugged, saying, “I just helped make stuff”—and then admitted to doing some baking.
“It’s so refreshing to see the growth they’ve made,” said Leslie Wood, who knows many of the students from their days at the Elementary School, where she works as a para-educator. “Now they’re carrying on conversations, talking about their life and what they want to do.”
“The independence they’ve gained after all these years,” added Susan Lemos, who used to work at the Elementary School and now works as a paraprofessional with the 18-21-year-olds in the Transition program at the High School. “It’s so exciting to see.”
Parent John Rios reflected that the teachers who work with his son have been with him for years. “It’s his second family,” he said.