Raider Deli teaches students essential skills

By Lisa Williams Ackley

Staff Writer

HEAD CASHIER — at Raider's Deli at Molly Ockett Middle School May 4 was Courtney Ela, seated at left, who gladly accepted payment from MOMS teacher Mr. Roger Wheeler. (Ackley Photo)

FRYEBURG — The staff at Raider's Deli at Molly Ockett Middle School here is dedicated, enthusiastic and hard working.

As members of Teacher Joe Ferigno's Essential Skills Class, they grow, buy and prepare all of the food they serve to 30 to 35 diners every Friday, from now through the end of the school year in June.

Last week, they served up collard greens baked stuffed potatoes with cheese, along with a garden salad comprised of greens and vegetables they grew, and finished with delicious rhubarb pie for dessert. The previous week, the students prepared and served collard greens quiche.

It all starts with the wonderful variety of vegetables that are nurtured from seeds to full growth by Chief Gardener Aaron Hennessy, an eighth grader from Chatham, N.H., who will be attending Fryeburg Academy and Lake Region Vocational Center's Diversified Occupations Program in the fall. Aaron takes tremendous pride in the variety of green and root vegetables he grows in a 14-foot by 24-foot greenhouse located behind the school.

Obtained by Mrs. Kathiann Shorey through grant funds, the "greenhouse inside a greenhouse" was constructed from a kit by the entire student body, according to Mr. Ferigno.

"We did some research, and found out people in Maine could grow all year, with a greenhouse within a greenhouse," stated Mr. Ferigno.

THE STAFF AT RAIDER'S DELI — includes, back row, from left, Ben Charles, Star Young, Matthew Powers, Aaron Hennessy and Courtney Ela. Front, from left, are Emily Kiesman and Matt McLaughlin. Johnny Plummer was absent, on Friday. (Ackley Photo)

"Students from the whole school put it together," Mr. Ferigno said. "We didn't know what to do with it, because it's not heated — so, when we planted in September, we decided to do all hardy vegetables — beets, lettuce, collard greens, arugula, spinach, kale and radishes."

"Next, we'll dig up all the plants in the greenhouse and start with the hot weather vegetables and herbs — such as tomatoes, eggplant, peppers and basil," said Mr. Ferigno. "Aaron waters the garden, and feeds it and fertilizes it, a couple of times a week. And, every week we have our restaurant — Raider's Deli — and the tossed salad all comes from here, except for the tomatoes and cucumbers. Our hope is that, when Aaron moves onto high school, there'll be more students to take his place. We're also looking for volunteers to come and water the garden during the summertime. The sides roll up, so it's easy to water it."

"Aaron really was the one who did all of the work in the greenhouse garden," Mr. Ferigno said. "He has a good, keen interest, and he loves growing — he's a good grower."

"It makes me feel glad and happy," said Aaron of his horticultural accomplishments. "I learned the word 'germinate'. I have my own radishes and beets (growing), on the porch at home."

A lot of learning & work involved

Mr. Ferigno explained the many things the Essential Skills students learn and do, as they prepare each week to serve up meals at Raider's Deli on Fridays.

THE CHIEF GARDENER — at Molly Ockett Middle School's Raider's Deli is Aaron Hennessy, shown here moments after he picked one of the radishes he grew in the greenhouse behind the school. At right, is Essential Skills Class Teacher Mr. Joe Ferigno. (Ackley Photo)

"They learn about profits and expenses," he said. "They plan the menu, on Monday. They make the menu design, and we talk about what we will make — we brainstorm ideas. They make out the grocery list, on Tuesday. They figure out how much money is necessary. On Wednesday, they go to the grocery store to buy what we need at the deli. They do unit pricing. They look at the price and compare. They go through the checkout and do the transaction. Then, they come back and put all the groceries away. On Thursday, they cook up a storm, and on Friday they open the deli."

At the beginning of the school year, the Essential Skills Class students learn Functional Math and Functional Reading, according to Mr. Ferigno. "So, they have functional skills, as a class," he said. "By doing Raider's Deli, they get practice in everything they learned all year. It's nice — it's a crew job. Everyone has to rotate. This week, the students whose parents came were the waiter and waitress. "

"They make everything from scratch," Mr. Ferigno said.

"We will make a lot of money," said Aaron.

"Aaron funded the deli," from money he earned, Mr. Ferigno stated. "He invested $30, and we paid him back with interest, the very first day."

"We made $126 last week (on April 27)," Aaron said. "With the money we made last year, we went to the movies and dinner at the Maine Mall."

"We came out to the garden at 8 a.m. (on Friday) and picked the salad greens," said Mr. Ferigno. "Aaron spent an hour washing the vegetables."

"My hands were freezing," stated Aaron, grinning proudly.

SERVING HER MOM & DAD — Desiree and Jeff Thompson (foreground), and others seated at the counter at Raider's Deli on Friday, was Emily Kiesman, at left. (Ackley Photo)

Aaron explained that he has been cooking for five years, and learned what he knows from his grandfather, former longtime Stow Corner Store owner Al Wright, who Aaron calls Pop-Pop.

"He taught me everything about cooking," Aaron said.

Diners may eat at the counter at the Deli, or take out their food.

Each week, the Essential Skills students assign themselves the various positions necessary, in order to operate Raider's Deli.

Last week, Ben Charles and Star Young were the maitre des; Matt McLaughlin was the cook; Emily Kiesman and Matthew Powers, who will be in next year's Essential Skills Class, were the wait staff; Courtney Ela was the cashier; and Aaron Hennessy, who made the dessert, was dishwasher and runner. Johnny Plummer, another member of the Raider's Deli team, was absent on Friday.

Matthew Powers was very proud of the salad dressing he made — creamy Italian — but was mum, when it came to what ingredients he put in it.

"That's a secret," said Matthew.

Emily Kiesman said her favorite task at Raider's Deli is doing the dishes.

So, as the time arrived to open Raider's Deli, the students took their places.

A huge smile spread across Maitre de Star Young's face, as she used an augmentative communication device to welcome everyone, saying, "Thank you, enjoy your meal. Please come again."

Matthew Powers was at the ready to take orders, stating, "Welcome to Raider's Deli. May I take your order?"

When each customer paid, Courtney Ela, who also employs an augmentative communication device, told customers, as she handed them their change, "Thank you for coming. Enjoy your meal."

The public may enjoy Raider's Deli, but please make reservations in advance by calling the Molly Ockett School office at 935-2401.

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