So much about education in 2020 is about perseverance and creativity.  That is what the Washougal Adult Transition Program students and staff demonstrated as they reimagined their annual Cookies and Cocoa holiday event.

The party, now in its third year, became mobile, with students and staff using a “Griswold Christmas” themed decorated cart to make contact-free deliveries of pre-ordered holiday treats right to Washougal High School teachers’ doors.

“The first year of the event was a thank you to specific campus staff who helped and supported us in different ways like letting us borrow things, build things for us or provide transportation,” said Jessica Nickels, Washougal Adult Transition Program Teacher.  “The second year we invited everyone on campus and district leadership.”

Nickels said it became obvious that an important element of the event was to give students a chance to talk about their accomplishments with people they do not see regularly.  As students were serving cookies, guests would often ask them questions like “Did you make these?” “How did you make them?” or “What are you up to?”

“It gave students the opportunity to talk with pride about what they are doing currently at volunteer sites and internships,” she said. “They enjoyed showcasing their accomplishments. It was also wonderful to see staff just take a break, sit and chat with students and each other and enjoy some amazing hot chocolate and cookies.”  The Transition program serves students ages 18-21 years old with a curriculum that focuses on transition planning such as career plans, future forward planning, and independent living skills.

The event preparation has been a lesson itself, with students selecting the cookie recipes, baking, and decorating the cookies, creating decorations, getting paper goods, and assembling packets of recipes requested by guests.

However, this year, while the students were in the planning process, COVID numbers began to spike, so the group is not currently meeting in person.  That is when staff and Janelle Stanton’s WHS Life Skills students stepped up to help with delivery and baking.  A google form was created for WHS staff to order treats to be delivered to their classroom.  They choose between two gluten-free and two traditional cookie recipes and hot coco or cider.

“Our students really enjoy this sense of giving back,” said Tiffaney Forney, WATP job coach. “We hope this brings a little bit of joy to our teachers.”

“I love this event and look forward to it,” said WHS teacher LaDonna Davis.  “I am so happy they figured out a way to make it happen this year.”

“It has been more difficult to foster the holiday spirit with everyone learning remotely,” admitted Nickels.  “But we do our community circles through Zoom each Tuesday and Thursday where we check in and look forward to what is coming.  Students are excited about the colder weather, the chance for snow and of course, getting closer to the holiday break.”