Kenai students preparing spaghetti feed

Those hungry for spaghetti this weekend will be able to satisfy themselves in the name of charity at the Kenai Central High School leadership class’s spaghetti feed, held Saturday at the KCHS cafeteria from 6 p.m to 7:30 p.m.

Earnings from tickets — $10 per plate or $30 for a family of 4 or more — will be donated to Students in Transition, the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District’s aid program for homeless students, along with the proceeds from a silent auction.

Entering its third year, the spaghetti feed is a long-running student civics project. Kyla Whannell — then a KCHS senior and student body president — organized the first one as a service project, required of all KCHS seniors. The following year Whannell graduated, and junior Abby Beck took charge of the spaghetti dinner. Now a senior herself, Beck is organizing her second spaghetti feed.

“I was pretty close friends with Kyla Whannell, and I helped her quite a bit when she piloted the first one,” Beck said. “When she graduated she asked me if I’d be willing to step up and make it an annual thing. And I said of course I’d love to. I’m a senior this year and I’m going to be graduating and I’m hopefully going to pass it on to another younger kid so they can hopefully keep running it.”

The 2015 spaghetti feed and silent auction raised $9,000, which was matched by an anonymous donor for a total of $18,000. Beck said contributing this money to Students in Transition — an program funded by grants and donations that provides district students in unstable living conditions with transportation, hygiene supplies, lunches, clothing, enrollment support, and other aid — had been an important goal.

“It’s something that’s local and it’s very personal because there are students in this program at our high school,” Beck said. “It was just a very relevant cause, and it hit home I think to Kyla when she started the program… From all the schools there’s usually around 250 kids each year that this program helps out. If you break that down, that’s quite a few for each school. You never really know who it’s helping. A lot of the time you are unaware of the problem.”

Beck said the 15 to 20 students who involved in putting on the spaghetti feed have been preparing by collecting donations — of cash to buy the spaghetti, garlic bread, and salad that guests will eat, or of silent auction items that they can bid on — from local businesses. The spaghetti feed is entirely donation-funded, she said.

The dinner will also have live entertainment. KCHS student Hunter Hanson will sing and play guitar, and band and choir members will perform.

“The theme this year we decided is going to be a winter wonderland holiday theme,” Beck said. “So we’re decorating with a Christmas tree, some tulle, some lights, tableclothes, different stuff like that. We have people who are helping serve, so you’ll go through line, get your food, and we’ll have servers who provide people with water, so once they sit down we hope they can relax, enjoy conversation, and not have to get up for things.”

Jesse Settlemeyer, a Kenai Central High School government teacher, is the faculty sponsor of the student leadership class — “basically, our student council,” he said. Settlemeyer said every student in a senior government class, which covers nearly all the senior class, is required to do a service project with 15 to 20 volunteer hours.

“It’s a district-level standard,” Settlemeyer said of the service project requirements. “It’s to get students to recognize the importance and value of being involved in the community and also the reward that can happen when they are involved in helping in the community…Some of our students will be coaches for the Boys and Girls Club. A lot of them work for the Boys and Girls club in different roles. Some of them will go to the local food bank and work there, some of them will go to the local senior center. Some of them have started ping-pong clubs. One of our students this year is going to do a video game competition. Another’s going to do a three-on-three basketball tournament fundraiser.”

Unlike the spaghetti feed, most of these projects are one-time events, Settlemeyer said.

“There’s been a few (student civics projects) that have gone for multiple years, but I think this is one in particular that caught on and has some added significance to the community,” Settlemeyer said. “I think as a school and a leadership group, we felt pretty strongly about supporting Students in Transition. This is definitely one we tried to continue.”

Reach Ben Boettger at ben.boettger@peninsulaclarion.com.

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