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‘A chance to thank everybody’

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — The line stretched almost to the door Tuesday at Escuela del Sol Montessori as teachers, families and neighbors gathered to celebrate the school’s 15th annual Thanks for Giving luncheon, a tradition that draws hundreds to the small school in Downtown Albuquerque.

Parents loaded up children’s plates with turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, rolls and pumpkin pie – food prepared by the school community, including middle school students in a culinary arts class. A parent spent hours smoking 16 turkeys to cover about 550 meals.

“We all come together,” said Friedje vanGils, head of the school. “This is a chance to thank everybody.”

The celebration now spans generations.

Jack Gauthier used to take his daughter, Emily, to Escuela del Sol for preschool years ago. On Tuesday, he accompanied Emily and her young children, Ayla, 4, and Jack, 1.

“It’s fun,” Gauthier said. “It’s great to be back. The community here is deep.”

Jolie Tafoya also says she has a “whole history” at the school.

Her mother worked there when Tafoya was a child, and she started attending when she was 2 years old.

Tafoya eventually followed her mom’s lead, taking a job teaching Escuela del Sol’s toddlers and enrolling her son, Trey, 5.

“It’s great to see all these families,” Tafoya said. “It’s a nice way to get into the holiday.”

When Tafoya was little, Escuela del Sol Montessori offered only preschool and kindergarten. It has since expanded to K-8, adding middle school grades this year and growing enrollment to 210 students.

VanGils said she is thankful for the school’s progress over its 48-year history and hopes the luncheon also provides an opportunity for the kids to reflect on their own gratitude.

Asked what she was thankful for, fifth-grader Solana Pearl listed desserts and a coming trip to Arizona.

She was also happy her mother and father would be in the audience for a luncheon presentation on the cornucopia. Pearl wore a large feather headdress and cape to portray ancient Greek goddess Amalthea, who created the traditional horn of plenty.

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