New Mexico School for the Deaf students prep Valentine’s treats for Kitchen Angels clients

New Mexico School for the Deaf students prep Valentine’s treats for Kitchen Angels clients

Angela Williams
The New Mexican

February 13, 2013

“Each cookie represents ‘I love you’ in sign language,” Tony McCarty, executive director of Kitchen Angels, said of the 130 heart-shaped confections decorated Wednesday by students from the New Mexico School for the Deaf.

The sugar cookies, topped with icing, colored sprinkles and candy, will be delivered to clients of Kitchen Angels, which prepares and brings freshly cooked meals to clients who are homebound with chronic and terminal illnesses.

Keri-Lynn McBride, the school’s director of development and community relations, came up with the idea for the cookie program 18 years ago. She said the school originally provided cookies to the organization during Christmas, but there was too much going on over the holidays to make it work.

Valentine’s Day, she said, was the perfect solution.

The school’s cafeteria staff bake the cookies ahead of time. On decorating day, McBride carefully lays out the bowls of icing and sugar candies.

“It’s always important that our kids learn how to give back,” she said, explaining why this day is special for students. “[Doing] something nice for other people, that’s a big, big thing for me.”

Different classes participate each year and this time, Doris Roberts chose to bring her multiple-handicapped students from the community based instruction program.

She said the program, which includes middle- and high-schoolers, teaches academics through real-life experiences to make students as independent as possible.

Superintendent Ronald Stern said that while the school is big on developing academic and cognitive skills, it’s also important to “focus on the soft skills,” such as giving back to the community.

“This group of kids who have special learning needs, it’s just a wonderful experiential learning opportunity, as well,” he said. “It gives them concrete meaning to what they’re doing.”

Roberts, who has been a special-needs teacher for 27 years, tries to vary her activities due to the fact that her students can spend years in her class.

“To do the cookies every year would be, well, it’s the same, so I try and round it out,” she said. “Maybe every three or four years.”

But all the kids were excited to be there, even the ones who are cookie-decorating veterans, such as 14-year-olds Johnathan Ludwig and Tony Ortiz.

Both Ludwig and Ortiz turned out some intricate designs. Ortiz, who particularly likes decorating with M&Ms, said his method is to add decorations until he thinks it’s done.

Ludwig uses all the decorations, such as butterfly and flower candies, as well as pink and red sprinkles.

“I create a picture in my mind and then I try to make it on the cookie,” Ludwig said.

Some of the students, such as Jessica Chavez, 20, enjoyed the experience for the first time. Chavez, whose favorite decoration was the sprinkled hearts, was glad to have the experience while she was still at the school.

“I have one more year here, and then I graduate and then I’m gone,” she said. “I’m looking at maybe some colleges.”

Contact Angela Williams at 986-3018 or [email protected]


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