West-Orange Stark Middle School needed a few good friends to serve as mentors to some of its kids as part of a new "Friends and Fun" mentor program. The teachers wanted to provide positive role models to impressionable kids in need of academic enrichment by building self-esteem and enlisting caring volunteers.
The group included fifth-, sixth-, and seventh-graders in what began as a technology community-based project. Students were exposed to a variety of practical, creative skills including career and leadership training. They established Email accounts through Gaggle to ensure consistent communication between mentors and kids. Technology activities provided the venue for students to relate with various mentors. Students created individual Web pages and/or PowerPoint slide presentations depicting their unique personalities and special talents to send to mentors.
A variety of speakers such as firemen, Web page designers, florists, and lands capers presented weekly hands-on activities to share expertise and to highlight safety and community beautification. The most memorable presentation was a distinguished florist who donated hundreds of flowers and taught the children how to create exquisite floral arrangements. Children were offered the opportunity to take the arrangement home or share with local residents in a retirement village. More than half of the children wanted to return the joy they received, so we walked four blocks with hundreds of colorful flowers to share. You can imagine the delight of the elderly recipients!
The concluding summer activity gathered everyone in search of life, liberty and the pursuit of a gumbo cook-off. Kids invited all of the mentors, volunteers and local businesses that donated to the project throughout the summer. They sent electronic invitations, painted banners and created flower centerpieces.
This cook-off was unique. Mentors arrived early to help prepare the gumbo with the kids. Stations featured celery, onions, boiled chicken, brownie mixes, lemonade, lettuce, tomatoes, and cucumbers. There was a lot of dicing, slicing, stirring, and serving! For five hours mentors and kids worked together to create the menu of fresh green salad, Texas gumbo, brownies, and raspberry lemonade.
One of the enthusiastic 12-year-old cooks said the experience was the most fun he had in a summer. He urged everyone to tell their neighbors about the program so he and his friends could participate next year.
- 20 lbs of whole chickens
- 10 lbs of sausage, sliced
- 9 quarts of chicken broth
- 8 yellow onions, chopped
- 2 bunches of fresh parsley
- 5 cans of chopped tomatoes
- 8 green peppers, finely chopped
- 4 cups of chopped celery
- 3 jars of prepared roux (flour and fat cooked together and used as a thickening)
- salt, pepper, thyme, parsley, cayenne to taste
- hot boiled rice
In a large pot, boil the chicken for twenty minutes. Remove the chicken and strain the broth. Once the chicken cools, remove the skins and de-bone it. In the empty stew pot, sautÃ© the chopped parsley, onion, green pepper, and celery until soft.
Now, in a saucepan, mix the roux adding your chicken broth according to the directions. When well-blended, add to the large stew pot with the other ingredients. Put in salt, pepper, thyme and cayenne. Bring to a boil and simmer for 2 hours, adding more strained stock if needed for consistency. Adjust seasonings. When it has simmered for at least two hours and the flavors have begun to blend, add the de-boned chicken and sliced sausage and cook for 15 more minutes.
Serve with fresh boiled rice in soup bowls.
Garnish with Tabasco, fresh green onion, crackers and gumbo file'
Email: Michelle Reynolds