After a normal lunch period at Sumner High School, lunch ladies and custodians typically get to work cleaning up the cafeteria space.
But on Nov. 21, their work came to a halt when students from the Leadership class surprised the staff with their very own Thanksgiving dinner.
“We showed up and told them to go eat,” said senior Alex Campbell, an ASB spirit coordinator who thought of the idea.
Surprised by the announcement, staff members followed the students to a room, where homemade macaroni and cheese, rolls, pie, stuffing and a roasted chicken were all laid out and ready to be served. The chicken was the only store-bought item — everything else had been prepared by students and their families.
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Senior Zaylan Jacobsen remembers one custodian in particular who was moved to tears. She’d missed the dinner announcement and began to wipe down tables when he approached her to tell her the good news.
“I told her, ‘We have dinner back there. I’m going to take over for you from here,’” Jacobsen recalled. “She said, ‘Are you serious?’ and broke down a little bit.”
The food wasn’t the only surprise for the staff. As they indulged in their dinner, Campbell, Jacobsen and the other students cleaned the cafeteria for them.
Bill White, a custodian who works at Sumner High School during the day, said that was the best part.
“It usually takes me two hours,” White said about cleaning the cafeteria. “It was in really good shape.”
“You realize how much work it actually is,” Jacobson added. “We had ten to 15 people working on the task that just Bill does.”
White says he’s no stranger to the kindness of the Leadership group, which also participates in the Golden Broom, an initiative that’s been ongoing for years where students help out custodians by picking up trash in the school.
White also gets thank-you grams often — pieces of paper with handwritten comments of appreciation from students. He’s collected them in a shoebox over the years, which has overflowed.
“I get them all the time, which is cool,” White said about the grams. “Sometimes it just chokes you up.”
But the Thanksgiving dinner was an extra step toward saying thank you.
We just thought that it was important for (staff members) who don’t get recognized on a daily basis to know they are a very vital part of our school.
Alex Campbell, senior at Sumner High School and ABS spirit coordinator
“This year I thought it’d be fun to take it to the next level,” Campbell said about her idea.
While White is familiar with student appreciation, he says some of the other staff members aren’t — especially the ones who work while classes aren’t in session. The students made sure some extra food was set aside for those workers, too.
“They were surprised because they don’t normally get that,” White said. “That’s one of the benefits working here is the kids. They’re great.”
Going forward, the Leadership students are interested in making the Thanksgiving dinner an annual event to celebrate the hard workers behind the scenes.
“We just thought that it was important for (staff members) who don’t get recognized on a daily basis to know they are a very vital part of our school,” Campbell said.