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Roosevelt kindergarten prepares to say goodbye to Lincoln building with a Thanksgiving dinner

Amaya Archuleta, left and Marisa Peterson are dressed as pilgrims Wednesday as they eat a Thanksgiving meal at Roosevelt Kindergarten Satellite in Willmar. More than 150 students and their teachers gathered for the dinner. Tribune photo by Ron Adams

A long time ago, there were people who were pilgrims, and the Indians helped them.

That was Abby Clancy's take on the first Thanksgiving.

The 6-year-old recounted that story Wednesday while she and the other kindergarteners at the former Lincoln Elementary School enjoyed a Thanksgiving feast. The meal was also a farewell to the old school from the last students to use it.

Now called the Roosevelt Kindergarten Satellite, the school will say goodbye to the seven classrooms of kindergarteners in a few weeks when they move to a new addition at Roosevelt Elementary School.

On Wednesday, 153 costumed students, their teachers and a crowd of parent volunteers gathered for a traditional meal of turkey, cranberries, mashed potatoes and gravy, corn and pumpkin pie.

As she looked out at the sea of children in handmade pilgrim hats and collars, Principal Beckie Simenson said leaving Lincoln will be bittersweet. She was principal of Lincoln and the former Jefferson Elementary for a number of years and is now head of alternative programs for the district.

Jefferson has been converted to a new home of the Willmar Community Education and Recreation Department. Lincoln will close for good in December.

"It's important for us just to do it as a whole school," she said of the Thanksgiving meal.

Kindergarten teacher Chelsea Brown said all the classes have talked about the story of Thanksgiving in the past couple weeks, and the students made pilgrim hats, headdresses with paper feathers and English tri-corner hats.

The staff has enjoyed having the three months spent in a separate building, Brown said.

"We absolutely love it," she said. "In a way, it was a blessing that we started here; we have become so close."

They will have their own wing when they move to Roosevelt and hope to be able to have similar events after they move, she said.

A note sent home with students attracted a number of moms and dads to help at the feast. All of the food for the feast was donated by parents, too.

Teacher Jen Otto, wearing her own white paper hat, said she was pleased to see so many parents coming in to help. Explaining her hat, she said, "I told the kids, if I'm coming to the Thanksgiving feast, I have to be a pilgrim."

On Thanksgiving, Abby said, she was thankful for her cat, Ninja. Dylan Medford, 6, said he was thankful for his friends.

A group of girls on the other side of the room focused on family. Erin, 6, and Hailey, 6, are thankful for their moms. Ava, 5, said she was grateful for her dad, then added, "I'm thankful for my sister, too." Arryana, 5, and Allison, 5, mentioned their grandmas first.

Some of the adults offered their ideas for what they appreciate on Thanksgiving, too.

For mom Angelica Leiva of Willmar, "I am thankful for everything -- my life, my kids." Leiva had volunteered to be with her son, Jacob, 5. He is her first child in school, she said, and she hopes to be able to continue volunteering at his school functions.

Sandy Schow was with her son Carter, 6, and his class. "He has the mentality that if you're asked to be here you have to be here," she said with a smile. "I'm happy to do it for him."

Linda Vanderwerf

I cover education issues for the West Central Tribune and have worked for the paper since 1995. I have worked in journalism since 1981.

Follow me on Twitter: @lindavanderwerf

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