Aiken Scholars Academy, USCA celebrate first Thanksgiving together at One Table
Just as the Pilgrims invited their Native American neighbors to the first Thanksgiving in 1621, USC Aiken invited its new neighbors, the Aiken Scholars Academy, to its annual One Table feast Thursday.
The 50 ninth graders in the academy’s first class, along with their families, shared the traditional fall holiday meal with USCA students, faculty and staff in the Student Activities Center.
A collaboration between Aiken County Public School District and USCA, the Aiken Scholars Academy opened in August as the district’s newest high school in USCA’s Ruth Patrick Science Center.
The academy offers some of the county’s brightest and most gifted and talented students opportunities to excel in an academically challenging and rigorous collegiate environment.
“We’re calling this our Phoenix Feast,” Aiken Scholars Academy Principal Martha Messick said, referring to the academy’s mascot, the Phoenix, a mythological bird that renews itself and symbolizes the characteristics of the academy’s students: future-focused, visionary and risk-taking.
Messick said sharing a meal brings the Aiken Scholars Academy family and the USC Aiken family together.
“The relationship and partnership with USC Aiken has been amazing,” she said. “The kids are really excited. They’ve been wanting to come over and check out the cafeteria. They get traditional public school food every day. They’re excited to be able to go back for seconds and thirds. They’re teenagers, so they like to eat.”
Christian Medders, an assistant director of Student Life at USCA, said inviting the Aiken Scholars Academy celebrates one campus community.
“It’s a way to come together at one table, have Thanksgiving lunch, share what we’re thankful for and just spend time together,” he said.
While USCA and the Aiken Scholars Academy shared a Thanksgiving meal Thursday, the price of admission will help feed some Aiken County Public School students over the long Thanksgiving break next week.
To participate, diners donated two canned goods. A back pack and 10 cans of food admitted six.
USCA students packed 185 back packs with the donated food and will deliver them to students at Warrenville Elementary on Friday.
“We coordinated with Patrick Newsome, the assistant principal at Warrenville and a USCA alum,” Medders said. “They have a Back Pack Buddies program. Now, the students won’t have to worry and can spend time with their families and friends. I am very proud of how our campus community has come together and to provide these students with food over their Thanksgiving break.”
USCA also participated in a month-long canned food drive with Golden Harvest Food Bank.
“It’s another way we can help people who might not have access to food,” Medders said.
Executive chef Rob Harper said his staff started cooking Wednesday for Thursday’s feast, making pumpkin pie, green bean and sweet potato casseroles and other traditional Thanksgiving dishes and preparing almost 200 pounds of turkey and about 160 pounds of ham.
Harper gave much of the credit to Geraldine Padgett, a night cook who has worked at USCA about 25 years.
“If you ask the students, she hooks things up,” Harper said. “We have standard recipes we’re supposed to go by, but I let Geraldine do her thing. She really does a great job, and I think the food this year is the best it’s ever been.”
Harper said he looks forward to One Table every year.
“It’s fun,” he said. “Everybody’s here, and that’s what Thanksgiving is all about – inviting everybody in and giving thanks and really enjoying everybody. It’s great.”