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Published: Thursday, 3/13/2003

Sight pupils learn to cook for cash

Lori Board shows Rogers High student Seritta Parker how to smooth out a cake mix. Lori Board shows Rogers High student Seritta Parker how to smooth out a cake mix.

Visually impaired students practicing daily living skills at the Sight Center recently decided to turn their class into a money-making venture.

By selling lunches to the center's staff and board members, the four Rogers High School students hope to raise enough money for a class field trip. They have about $150 in their savings account.

“I was thinking about Cedar Point, but I heard that was a bit too expensive,” Anthony Bowman, 15, said. “We'll discuss what we could do.”

Students like the prospect of an excursion, but Sight Center teachers like the catering project because it incorporates several tasks. The students practice cooking, following instructions, meeting deadlines, and dealing with money.

“We are trying to teach them life skills so they can go out and fend for themselves,” educational specialist Donna Ingle said.

The four students, who have their own class at Rogers, go to the Sight Center every Tuesday. Last week, they prepared 20 pita pizzas, salad, and brownies for themselves and several employees at the center.

Seritta Parker, who has been blind since her premature birth, relied on her sense of touch while cooking. As Miss Parker frosted brownies, educational specialist Lori Board moved her fingertips over the chocolate cake so she could feel whether the frosting was evenly distributed.

“Go left to right like you're reading Braille,” Ms. Board suggested.

Miss Parker's classmate, Anthony, read instructions from a cookbook and made the pizzas, restraining himself from topping all the pies with the extra cheese and sauce he craves. He was born with a cataract in his left eye, but can see out of his right eye.

William McDonald, 15, and Michael Reyes, 16, also participate in the class.

The students started preparing $4 lunches for the Sight Center staff in January, and served meals during two noon meetings of the center's board.

“Their cooking skills have improved so much this year,” Ms. Ingle said. “It's been amazing.”

Making lunches every week is just one of the class activities. The students have a model apartment at the center where they practice vacuuming, doing laundry, changing bed sheets, and scrubbing the bathroom.

The students also learn how to use computers and do crafts. Computer teacher Chris Stearns, who is blind except for some light perception, teaches students to send e-mail and use word processing programs.

“I try to cover the basics and skills they will need in the future, whether they'll be going to school or applying for jobs,” he said.

Teachers at the center agree that making lunches for employees has motivated the class.

Miss Parker, 19, said she especially enjoys delivering the meals because she gets the chance to chat with her customers.

“It's incredible,” she said. “Cooking is fabulous.”

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