The high school classroom was transformed into a fine dining room, complete with linens, holiday centerpieces, and a roaring fire—or at least a video of a roaring fire on the classroom video screen.
Adult students moved through a buffet line that featured rolls, corn, mashed potatoes, turkey, stuffing, and cranberry sauce on their plates before being seated by the Scarlet Oaks Career Campus students who prepared and served the meal.
The guests at this meal are enrolled in the Aspire/English as a Second Language (ESOL) classes at Scarlet Oaks, and for many of them, this was the first Thanksgiving meal of their lives.
Aspire supervisor Kerrie Benning said that this is the third year the school hosted a Thanksgiving event for ESOL students. She said that the intent was more than just enjoying good food. “Before the meal, we have civics lessons to help our students understand why Americans celebrate Thanksgiving,” she said. “It’s important that they have a sense of our traditions.”
Nearly 300 ESOL students were served during the two-day event. Food was prepared by high school juniors and seniors in the Scarlet Oaks Culinary Arts program.
At one table, students from Congo, South Korea, Mexico, Guatemala, Palestine and Italy sat together and practiced their English skills while appreciating the meal. “I liked the cranberry sauce best,” said Muniangi. Others named their preferences as well. “I enjoyed the tea,” joked Bahaa, before listing turkey, potatoes and stuffing as his favorites.
Two of the visitors were chefs in their own countries. Asked if they had any advice for the student chefs, Maria replied, “They can practice at my house!”
For Jay, an ESOL student who is also studying welding at Scarlet Oaks, the event was a welcome surprise. “I didn’t expect to have this good food,” he said. “I just came to learn English.”