DANVILLE – Thanksgiving came a week early for the students and staff at Kenneth D. Bailey Academy.

The alternative school on East Main Street served a turkey feast with all the trimmings Thursday to at least 200 middle and high school alternative students, their families, District 118 employees and community members.

“Besides our own students, we will serve an additional 60 to 70 individuals and family members,” said Kenneth D. Bailey Academy Principal Mitzi Campbell, who greeted each student and adult as they went through the buffet line.

The Thanksgiving luncheon has been a tradition for those involved with the district’s alternative program for the last eight years.

Campbell recalled being a teacher in the alternative program when the very first Thanksgiving luncheon was served in 2011 at the Laura Lee Fellowship Center.

Now that the alternative program has its own school building, the meal is enjoyed in Bailey Academy’s spacious gym.

Preparations for the annual event are made well in advance, with the academy’s staff and students involved in many aspects of it.

“The staff is very involved. Everyone brings in a dessert,” Campbell said. “Staff and students work to assemble the decorations also.”

This year’s decorations included puffy turkeys and handmade scrapbook paper pumpkins.

Just before the turkey feast was served, Campbell said the student-led council gave a presentation to family members and others about what they had done so far this school year.

“They talked about working on their robots in their classrooms, the field trip they’ve taken to the Vermilion County War Museum and their campus visit to the University of Illinois,” Campbell said.

The academy’s food service employees prepared much of the food with help from staff members and area businesses, such as The Beef House that contributed its famous rolls.

The luncheon menu was expansive with many dishes from which to select. Social worker intern Allison Crooks, PE teacher Kendra Free, and social worker Megan Mohr stayed busy serving up sliced turkey, mashed potatoes and gravy, stuffing, corn, green beans, macaroni and cheese, and baked apple crisp.

Bailey Academy students look forward to the Thanksgiving meal every year.

“It looks awesome,” student Styles Blue said as he looked at the food on his tray.

Student Janiyah Williams said she wished her mother could have been there to enjoy the meal.

Campbell said the Thanksgiving tradition is beloved by all.

“The students, our families, community members and the staff love it,” she said.

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