Cooking and Celebrating with Friends, Supporters

Transition student Nettie Miller offers fresh pepper for a salad to Nancy Denson, KCTP principal; and guest Erin Szymoniak.

Transition student Nettie Miller offers fresh pepper for a salad to Nancy Denson, KCTP principal; and guest Erin Szymoniak.

Klamath County Transition Program students take over Roosters restaurant for holiday dinner

It was a dinner fit for a fancy restaurant.

The Klamath County Transition Program’s annual Christmas lunch celebration Wednesday featured a three-course prime rib dinner and special guests including community leaders and long-time program supporters.

The luncheon this year had a new venue – Roosters Steak and Chop House. Owner Dave Twidale and manager Sandy Shaw wanted to support the students and provide a place for their celebration.

Kerry Smith of the KCSD, and Matt Vieyra enjoy the holiday lunch together.

They donated use of the restaurant and kitchen as well as the expertise of two of its employees to help the students cook the prime rib holiday meal. The 42 guests and students ate in style and were waited on by four transition program students, who learned the trade from Roosters’ staff.

Klamath County Commissioner Derrick DeGroot was among the guests, invited because of his ongoing support of the program, which provides independent living and pre-employment skills to young adults from 18 to 21 years of age with moderate to severe disabilities.

“It was an event that emulates the spirit of the season,” he said. “It’s one of those events you leave feeling inspired to tackle the issues of our community. The students were incredible – from their wit and their sense of humor to their work ethic.”

Students shopped for and then cooked the meal, which includes salad, prime rib with potatoes and homemade cheesecake for dessert.

Phillip Squibb, director of Klamath County Developmental Disabilities; Moriah Parton, and Skylar Gilham enjoy lunch together.

“We invited people who helped directly with our program,” said Randy Denson, head teacher of the Klamath County Transition Program. Nancy Denson is the program’s principal. Of the 42 guests, 17 were students, 10 were from the school district and 15 were community members.

Klamath County School District took over operation of the program from the Southern Oregon Education Service District in 2015. Denson was hired as its teacher the following year, and since then the number of students served has more than doubled. About 24 students attend daily.

Transition students who volunteered to serve during the holiday luncheon are pictured left to right: Joey Huitt, Nettie Miller, Aries Murphy, and Austin Bryant.

The program offers daily classes and groups of students take turns shopping for and cooking all the meals. Recreation program include Zumba and access to the YMCA and Klamath Strength and Conditioning gym. Third-year students are required to take a resume building course, and this year, the program added art to its repertoire.

Community service also is encouraged and students volunteer for SMART reading at Henley Elementary, the Peterson Elementary School garden and the Klamath County Fairgrounds.

Students work as a cleaning crew for the city of Klamath Falls and also operate the Jo2Go coffee cart at the Klamath County School District Central Office and the Klamath County Library.

“Getting out in the community and giving them opportunities is so important,” Denson said, “And (the students) have a great attitude. They make their own opportunities.”