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Ben Reifel RISE students put on Thanksgiving dinner

Published: Nov. 19, 2021 at 4:08 PM CST
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SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (Dakota News Now) - Students and staff at Ben Reifel Middle School got together Friday for a Thanksgiving dinner, helped put on by some of those students.

While a Thanksgiving dinner program like this has gone on for students at Axtell Park and George McGovern in previous years, it’s the first at Ben Reifel. It’s something that RISE Team Lead Desiree Burggraaf helped start at Axtell Park 12 years ago, and is now excited to continue at Ben Reifel.

“We had a city bus close by. So we’d go to the grocery store and get groceries. My father-in-law owns a restaurant in Rock Valley, Iowa. He donated the turkey that first year, and it just grew and grew from there.” said Burggraaf.

The dinner is put on by students in the RISE Program, a special education program at Ben Reifel. With the help of teachers, students learn how to make and prepare the food for the dinner. They then get to serve it to their peers, teachers, and special guests like Mayor Paul TenHaken and Governor Kristi Noem.

“They have the recipe, we use a lot of visual recipes. They have to work on multiplying it, and making it larger portions. And taking turns doing the steps.” said Burggraaf.

Some students spent the day looking forward to serving the food, and getting their own plate as well.

“It’s fun and exciting, and we get to have good food.” said Ben Reifel 6th grade student Jeremiah Carrizales.

For others, it was getting to spend the day with friends, and helping prepare for the dinner.

“Then I skipped class today. Then I skipped another class. Then I skipped the whole entire thing, the whole day.” said Ben Reifel 8th grade student Ciara Huwer.

Burggraaf said having helped put on the dinner for 12 years now, this is what she looks forward to most near Thanksgiving. It’s something special to share with the students, and she hopes the tradition will carry on at Ben Reifel for years to come.

“This is the holiday now for me. Not even for my own family. This is Thanksgiving. Once this is over, it’s like ‘Thanksgiving is done.’ It’s definitely the best day of the year.” said Burggraaf.

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