Recap: ExCEL program’s Thanksgiving fundraiser


Teachers eat Thanksgiving lunch in the MLK room. The price of the lunch goes towards funding the ExCEL program. CLEO FALVEY / SAGAMORE STAFF

Becky Perelman, Staff Writer


Tuesday, Nov. 22, is the time of the year for the teachers and the students of ExCEL program to wake up at 5 a.m. and cook a Thanksgiving lunch for the high school staff.


Food is laid out buffet-style on the MLK room table during the ExCEL program's Thanksgiving lunch fundraiser. CLEO FALVEY / SAGAMORE STAFF.
Food is laid out buffet-style on the MLK room table during the ExCEL program’s Thanksgiving lunch fundraiser. CLEO FALVEY / SAGAMORE STAFF.

Vendola says that the ExCEL Thanksgiving is on its ninth year.  

“We get here at 5 a.m. the Tuesday of our Thanksgiving week and we start cooking but we go shopping the day before, to get all the food. We cook all day and we invite all the staff and ask for donations. We just want to get everybody together to say thank you for all their support throughout the year, we have a lot of staff that do a lot for us and for our students so it’s a nice way to get everybody together.” Vendola said.

The ExCEL Thanksgiving took place in the MLK Room. In one corner of the room a serving table stood with mac and cheese, mashed potatoes, rice, vegetables, and, of course, turkey. In another corner there was a small table with desserts.

Behind the serving table Sarah Kornell, ExCEL English teacher, stood, serving food for the faculty along with the help of the ExCEL students.

Senior Julissa Perez said she helped with the ExCEL Thanksgiving for the second time this year.

“It is a big community builder, everyone is early and cooking and it brings everybody together.” Perez said.

According to Kornell, the students really enjoy preparing the Thanksgiving lunch.

“They have to earn coming in the morning and most of them do. It’s a really exciting event for them but once we have the first turkeys in the oven, we usually put on a movie and relax, they’ve had such a hard day. So it’s mandatory in the sense that school is mandatory but it’s not enforced getting to school early but they like it,” Kornell said.

Vendola says some students start working very early in the morning.

“It’s a lot of work but the students help us, we had 14 or so students come at 5 a.m,” said Vendola. “So, we’ll pick them up and cook all day. It’s a really nice day.”

According to the high school’s website, “ExCEL is a therapeutic learning environment for students with emotional and/or behavioral disabilities who need support to access academic instruction. Programming includes modified academics, instruction in self-management, and community experiences.”

Joslyn Vendola, ExCEL Lead Teacher and math teacher, said that students in the ExCEL program do not take all of the classes that mainstream students do.

“The ExCEL program is a program where students take smaller class sizes and they rotate through subjects so that they take fewer subjects at a time but they still take English, history, math, and science throughout the year but they’ll switch back and forth and take two at a time. It’s small community.” Vendola said.