Velveeta mac & cheese
Strawberry banana smoothies
As soon as I heard the phone ring early Saturday morning and saw that it was Jan, I knew that there was a problem. She was barely able to squeak out that she had lost her voice and wasn’t going to be able to teach Cultivating Change. She was devastated because she and the girls had come up with the menu in their writing workshop the day before. I assured her that I would manage on my own, and I headed over to her house to pick up the supplies.
When I arrived to CCYC, I found out that there would be eight boys in class, which was the most that had participated in a while. I feel like the numbers always increase as the weather turns cold. It was going to be interesting to see how I managed that many boys on my own, but most of them had been attending class for at least two or three sessions, so they knew what to do.
Once I explained the menu, the boys divided into teams: one group was going to make the smoothies, another would shred the turkey and make the taco seasoning, and the last group would prepare the guac and all of the taco toppings. Jan had made Velveeta mac & cheese the day before to add to our list of contenders for the cookbook, so that was already prepared and just needed to be reheated.
I jumped back and forth between groups to check in on them and give them help as needed, but most of them were doing a stellar job without much assistance. Staff were there to lend a hand, which definitely kept things running smoothly. Within no time, the smoothies were ready and being poured. I started putting out the toppings for the tacos while W. and a new boy, L., sautéed the turkey meat with the taco seasoning. I popped over to check on the guacamole making, and J. and U. seemed to have everything under control. I was so impressed with how well the boys worked together without any direct leadership. They really have developed solid skills in the time they have been part of Cultivating Change. Somehow we managed to get the food on the tables and the boys eating ahead of schedule—something that never happens when Jan and I are both there. We were so early in fact, that I offered to air fry taquitos with the leftover turkey meat while they ate. They had time for seconds and to sample the mac & cheese. It definitely was not as well-received as S.’s mom’s or Jamilah’s recipe, both of which were made with shredded cheese. I was happy that the family recipes were the favorites.
Without even asking, the boys started to clean the dishes and sanitize the tables. When they needed to step up and put in the extra effort, the boys really came through and displayed a level of maturity that I hadn’t seen before.
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Heather Leach is Cultivating Change's facilitator and Program Director!