DENVER, Colo. — At Excel Academy in Denver, the annual Thanksgiving meal for teachers, staff, students and their families looks a little different this year.
"We're making the best out of a bad situation," Excel Academy Dean of Instruction Jon Owen said.
Rather than serving up dinner in the cafeteria, the space has become a distribution center for dozens of meals to go home with families this year. Each box includes a turkey, a pumpkin pie and several of the fixings, including stuffing, cranberry sauce and potatoes.
Orley Aragon has a son and daughter who attend Excel. She said they didn't pick up traditional holiday foods, like ham, because they didn't have the money for it.
“I’m sure a lot of families can appreciate it,” said Orley Aragon, who has a son and daughter attending Excel. “Especially since a lot of families have fallen on hard times."
Excel Assistant Principal Leonard Ward said people have come together throughout the week to bring in donations. School leaders, including principal Cynthia Navarro, said two businesses in particular, Raymond's Painting and the Abbey Collection Realty, made it happen.
"We get to do the fun part and actually hand it to the families,” Ward said. “It just means a lot."
Excel is an alternative high school for at-risk kids in west Denver, which offers an opportunity for students who need a different path to graduation, Owen said.
“I will tell you, our students are brilliant and they have so much going for them," Navarro said.
A community supported its own with a new tradition to serve so many in need, especially during a difficult year like 2020.
"I won't go hungry with this going on," said Daniel Rojas, a parent at Excel. “It looks very good. Especially that pumpkin pie."