By Bonnie Adams, Government Editor
Westborough – Life is all about challenges and finding a way to overcome them. As the Life Skills teacher at Westborough High School, Anita Breeze applies that philosophy every day with her students.
“In this class, we have five kids who have different learning issues,” Breeze said. “Our goal is to teach them life skills so they can someday live independently and secure employment.”
As part of their curriculum this fall, the students – Henry Chi, Justice Dikenga, Caitlyn Kline, Jimmy Rogers and Shard Sharma – have been working with Bruce Tretter, a Westborough resident and the CEO and founder of “Gotta Eat, Can's Cook,” a website dedicated to making cooking easier. During their lessons with Tretter, the kids have learned to make easy dishes such as scrambled eggs, pancakes and pizza.
Those lessons got kicked up a notch as the students prepared a full Thanksgiving meal – turkey with all the fixings – which they served to members of the high school's staff Nov. 18.
Before each cooking lesson, Breeze receives a list of ingredients from Tretter. She, along with the class's three paraprofessionals – Carol Maxwell, Janice Jeannotte, and Kari Carley – then takes the kids to the Stop & Shop on Otis Street to shop for the class. While there, they learn how to locate items using the store's map, to do cost comparisons and to be aware of marketing techniques such as why a big colorful package might not actually be a better value than a plain one.
“Stop & Shop has been great to us,” Breeze said. “Josh Gray, the assistant manager, even gave us a $25 gift card which we used to buy supplies for the Thanksgiving meal.”
For Tretter, who is also a School Committee member, working with the kids has been a fantastic experience, he said.
“I follow the same process with them that I always do with anyone else,” he said. “I try to lay out the objective and then use video technology to help support that.”
“Bruce is great at teaching,” Breeze said. “He tells them something, and then gives them time to process it. He doesn's over talk. He takes whatever the kids say, even if they get frustrated, and turns it into a positive.”
Before serving the special holiday meal to their guests, the students took a few moments to reflect on their cooking lessons.
Justice and Henry admitted that although vegetables weren's high on their list of likes, the pumpkin pie they made earlier in the week was at the top.
Shard said he had enjoyed the lessons but said since his mother was such a good cook he would probably let her handle his family's Thanksgiving meal this year.
It was going to be different at Caitlyn's house, though, as she noted, “My mom's going to be the helper!”
And Jimmy said that he was not nervous at all about how the lunch would be received by their guests.
“It will all be good!” he promised with a big smile.