By Sydney Hembrough
Popcorn has been rooted in the culture of Jacksonville High School for many years. From ball games to classrooms to celebrations, the salty snack makes its appearance at several high school functions. The famous FFA popcorn is sold by the organization at basketball games to raise money for activities. Popcorn is also included in the foods class curriculum. Students learn about the nutritious value behind whole grains and how to make the popcorn on the stove and in paper sacks. It is safe to say that the Jacksonville community loves popcorn!
As a part of their adult living class taught by Mrs. Zimmer, special education students learn about skills related to jobs and independent living through a variety of units. These units touch on topics such as paying bills, making wise purchases and obtaining a job. The senior students take popcorn to a whole new level by applying the skills they learn in the class. Every Friday, the seniors make popcorn to sell to teachers in gallon bags for $10 a semester. The students are responsible for making, delivering and cleaning up afterwards. According to Mrs. Zimmer, “They learn important skills in independence, teamwork, and communication while accomplishing this job.” The students are actively learning life skills through this experience. Adult living student Rachel said that she has learned coordination. “You have to be cautious when making popcorn because you don’t want to burn yourself on the pan. Sometimes I need help and it takes teamwork to finish the job.” Richie reflected on the skills that he has learned by saying, “I am learning how to be organized and stay clean. I’m really proud of everybody for learning how to do the job ourselves. I am proud I can teach others and show them what to do.” Along with the valuable knowledge, the seniors gain a senior celebration dinner at the end of the school year, paid for with the money they earn from the popcorn sales. Another perk to this program is becoming community celebrities. Everyone knows the popcorn students!
The impact this adult living project has on not only the students, but the Jacksonville High School community is tremendous. Teachers and students love seeing them working hard at something they are passionate about. Mrs. Zimmer emphasized, “Working with a group of students who are traditionally not leaders in the school community and watching them develop into leaders among their peers is an amazing sight.” She loves seeing their hard work bring themselves and others so much happiness, especially because they are a group that is “often ignored who are frequently dependent on adult support.” The impact they make is far beyond their own lives as well. Mr. Homolka, an art teacher at JHS, said, “Every week, I get a personal note on my bag and makes my day. I also see that student saying hello and making connections with general education students-which is a benefit to both general education students and special education students.” Overall, the Jacksonville High School community has been brought together through their love for popcorn!