WESTFIELD – Students in the Westfield Public Schools’ East Mountain Transition Program celebrated Friendsgiving Nov. 20 with a potluck lunch and a lot of laughs.
Each of the program’s 22 students contributed to the lunch by bringing in a dish to accompany the turkey. Beans, Puerto Rican rice, potatoes and, of course, stuffing and cranberry sauce were all made by students and their families.
“This is our first Friendsgiving,” said Transition Program Director Sherry Elander. “This is something our students wanted to do together.”
The lunch was an extension of a weekly Cooking Club for students hosted at the Central Baptist Church on Elm Street.
“For the past four years we have partnered with Central Baptist Church and we bring students there to cook,” Elander said.
The Transition Program is for youth ages 18-22 who have completed high school and may be attending college or a work program but still need support. Job coaches and staff assist students who go to work, and staff teach life skills at the East Mountain Road facility. Skills include cooking – including planning, shopping and preparing meals – laundry, how to make a bed, clean and more.
Elander said the Friendsgiving lunch was also an opportunity to teach skills.
“They each brought in something, and no one forgot, so there’s the responsibility aspect, she said. “These students all want to be independent and live on their own and this event taught them about cooking, planning and social skills.”
Westfield High School Principal Charles Jendrysik joined the students for lunch Wednesday.
“This is a program I love to visit,” he said. “Most of these students have gone through the high school and know me, so to be included in this event celebrating friendship is very special.”
Elander said the theme for the entire week was friendship and relationships.
“This particular group gets along very well and really wants to spend time together,” she said. “