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ALE students learn life skills in high school kitchen

Bell pepper, onion and celery sizzle over the stovetop in the busy kitchen at Roosevelt High School.

The chefs are making gumbo, a dish that’s known for being warm and authentic, much like the students preparing it. 

Chris Ingram is the Special Education Coordinator at Roosevelt High School. He used to be a school coach but said he fell in love with the Alternative Learning Environment students.

“The ALE kids have no ill-will, they just want to make you happy and I like that,” Ingram said.

Along with learning their way around the kitchen, students are also picking up healthy eating habits and life skills.

The ALE students in the class are also cooking their way one step closer to independence, which Ingram said is the goal.

“The more we can teach them to be independent, the better off they are going to be whether its job skills or it’s independent living skills. We want them to have some independence and ownership of their everyday life,” he said.  

The cooking class is unique to North East ISD.

“We are the only high school in the District that does what they call a CTED, a curriculum for disabled students, so this class is the only one of its kind,” he added.

The campus even has their own community garden so students can have a truly farm-to-table experience.

“They raise up their crops, they take their crops into our commercial-grade kitchen then learn how to clean it, prepare it, chop it up, put it and cook it safely,” Ingram said.

Nineteen-year-old Juanita Davila said she enjoys gardening and is already practicing cooking different meals at home.

“We grow a lot of vegetables; I just like to learn the cooking. I also like the food; the class is great,” the high school senior said.

None of this could be possible without the passionate teachers who provide students with the one-on-one learning opportunities at school.

“Yes, they are great! I love them; I love them all,” Davila added excitedly.

“We have a great staff here that has a commercial kitchen. they volunteered to do this class; they weren’t tasked with it. they said we see a need, we’d like to address this, is it okay if we do this and we said heck yes you can. if it’s good for the kids, we’ll knock it out of the park.”

This is just another way, Roosevelt High School has taken innovative steps for each and every student on their campus.

“What it says about Roosevelt is that we are risk-takers. If it’s what’s best for our kids, we’re going to take some risks and do what it takes for our kids,” Ingram said.

To learn more about the Special Education programs in NEISD, click here:

Discover the NEISD way, where our educators prepare students for their future through real-life experiences.

Ashley Speller