Printed on: November 26, 2013

A meal of gratitude

Students at Emerson Alternative High School gives thanks

By KIRSTEN JOHNSON
kjohnson@postregister.com

Lunchtime at Emerson Alternative High School on Friday was a bit more festive than usual.

Folding cafeteria tables were draped with orange-and-red tablecloths. Decorative turkeys sat atop table settings positioned family-style as the tempting aroma of turkey and mashed potatoes wafted through the lunchroom.

The high school hosted its second annual traditional Thanksgiving lunch for roughly 120 ninth- through 12th-grade students. An extravagant buffet-style spread that featured ham, stuffing, rolls and pumpkin pie, in addition to turkey and mashed potatoes, awaited the students as they entered the cafeteria.

"That looks so yummy," said one student, licking her lips as she walked by.

The meal was the idea of the school's student senators, who organized the event for the first time last year. The goal, they said, was to ensure every student had the opportunity to celebrate Thanksgiving.

"Some people might not have the opportunity to be with their families," 20-year-old Casey Edwards said. "This way, everyone feels like they get a Thanksgiving."

Principal Robin Busch opened the meal by sharing gratitude comments written and submitted earlier by the students. The comments expressed ways they could help others.

"Shoveling sidewalks for elderly," read one comment.

"Volunteering at an animal shelter," said another.

"Putting gas in my dad's car," another read, which promoted a round of laughter.

Makaylah Mantooth, 17, bounced her 5-month-old daughter, Addisyn, who was happily celebrating her first Thanksgiving meal.

"I'm really thankful to be her mom," Mantooth said. "I want her to be able to look up to me when she gets older."

Enrique Ceras, 17, said his favorite part of the Thanksgiving holiday was seeing his family enjoy a meal together -- a special and rare moment for him.

"Our whole family comes together and work together to make a meal," he said. "Some make turkey, some made the side dish, but we each do something. It's really pretty cool to see."

Seventeen-year-old Thomas Rood agreed.

"Usually my mom works, my dad travels a lot and my brother is in his room most of the time," he said. "We don't see each other much. This is the one day where we can all be together."

Edwards said he took the holiday as an opportunity to pause and reflect on his own life.

"I think it's really about looking back," he said. "Being thankful for what you've been through and knowing it could always be worse. I'm thankful I have a family who cares about me, I'm graduating and I'm making something of my life. Thanksgiving is really a chance to look back and be thankful for what you've got."

Reporter Kirsten Johnson can be reached at 542-6757.