Students deck the cookies at High Desert

By Ryn Gargulinski: QCS

Tucumcari Middle School student Louie Leyva said he never baked anything before in his life, much less Christmas cookies. And neither Leyva nor anyone in his home economics class, now known as family consumer science, had ever taken a couple batches out to decorate with anyone.

But Friday found five of the students visiting Route 66’s High Desert Family Services, a center for developmentally disabled people with special needs, with at least five dozen cookies, 11 eager decorators-to-be and more than 20 tubes of icing to get down to business.

Although for some, like High Desert client Lawrence Cordova, the business was having fun.

“I like cookies,” he said, adding he also liked the other projects in which High Desert engaged for the holidays, such as sending out Christmas cards.

Client Donald Wood added to the High Desert agenda, mentioning the mariachi concert they were slated to attend that evening, their upcoming Christmas party at Dean’s and the stockings they stuffed with filler to make into pillows. He also said baking was one of his favorite activities so the cookie decorating was right up his alley.

“Our goal is to integrate them, so people can see who they are and that they are part of the community,” said High Desert Project Director Dixie Heckendorn of the clients they serve. Heckendorn said she came up with the cookie decorating project with the help of her daughter, middle school teacher Jodie Lamm, as a way to accomplish just that.

Although the family consumer science class stays busy all year sewing, cooking and even teaching elementary school kids, Lamm said it was important to make room for the cookie decorating project.

Eighth grader Haley Valverde agreed.

“I like people,” said Valverde, who was working closely with client Benny Salazar. Valverde said she also likes cooking and, although her specialty is tacos, she said she felt good about the cookies — and even better about bringing them to share with High Desert clients.

“It’s fun to see all the people react,” Valverde said. “I hope they are having a good time.”