TRI CITY — A Thanksgiving meal of mashed potatoes, turkey gravy, cranberries, fruit salad, stuffing, salad, vegetables, rolls, and dessert were served to nearly 400 South Umpqua High School students on Friday.

“There’s a lot of kids that aren’t going to have thanksgiving, or may not have a nice Thanksgiving, so it’s nice to do it together,” senior Auna Jephson said. Jephson is part of the leadership class that helped organize the event.

South Umpqua High School Principal Carl Simpson said normally about 150 students eat lunch at the school. All students ate free on Friday and got to spend extra time in the cafeteria to enjoy the desserts.

“To have them all here is pretty amazing,” Simpson said, but added that there were some logistical details to work out.

Local churches helped provide extra tables and chairs, Sweet Confections Bakery in Riddle provided the desserts on short notice and students helped decorate the multi-purpose room.

Junior Sara Munoz, who is in leadership, said she has helped for a number of years at the Thanksgiving dinner at the community center with her family.

“This had the same feel,” she said. “I feel like I was with me family, because leadership is my family. I just feel like this whole thing brought our school closer. Looking out there and seeing everyone happy just makes my heart warm.”

The multi-purpose room was filled with chatter as students took the opportunity to get to know each other a little better.

Senior Amelia Jackson said it was a nice way to get to know other students in the school.

“At lunch you usually split up and hang out with your friends, but this is an opportunity,” Jackson said. “A lot of us seniors feel like we don’t really know the underclassmen so this is an amazing way to learn about them and actually get to know them.”

Simpson agreed that it was a good community building activity and a nice way for the students to come together.

“We have a lot of students that don’t celebrate thanksgiving,” Simpson said. “We want them to see what the tradition looks like, and build community.”

Freshman Morgan Potter said the food was really good and that she got to try almost everything. The fruit salad was gone by the time she got there, but she did get a coconut cream pie for dessert that hit the spot.

“I love sweets,” she said.

Kyle Micken, general manager of Sodexo School Services, which provides food services for several school districts in Douglas County, including South Umpqua School District, was on hand to help wash dishes after the feast.

“It’s really a great way for students to come together,” Micken said. “Everyone was very appreciative.”

Munoz said she hopes to continue the event next year and that it will start a tradition for many years after she graduates.

Sanne Godfrey can be reached at or 541-957-4203. Follow her on Twitter @sannegodfrey.

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