Instructor Edgar Morales teaching Kyle and Melissa how to prepare food.

As a group of students in The Independence Center’s Wednesday cooking class prepare for their lesson, instructor Edgar Morales asks them what the first step is when preparing food. In unison, the class enthusiastically responds with “wash your hands.” Then the fun begins. On the menu is baked ham, mashed potatoes, and macaroni and cheese. Most of the students have been in Edgar’s cooking classes before, so there is a real sense of community. As you would expect, the students joke around with each other when not cooking, and overall really seem to enjoy learning how to cook.

Melissa, a shy girl who tells me how much she likes football, seems especially involved in the class. She tells me how much she has learned in her time in the class and proudly explains that when she goes home now, she knows how to cook for her family. She seems especially proud of making a homemade lasagna recently for a potluck at her church.

When it’s time to start cooking, everyone plays a part. Edgar directs the show like the conductor of an orchestra. Everyone takes turns working together as the meal comes together. In the process of preparing the mashed potatoes, there is a minor problem. The boiled potatoes don’t seem to be mashing with the hand held potato masher. Quick thinking saves the day as the class decides the potatoes need to be chopped up and mixed with an electric mixer. In the end, everything turns out great and students are able to sit down and enjoy the meal that they worked so hard to prepare.

Though friendship and fun are one of the byproducts of the class, The IC’s cooking class was started for the purpose of giving people with disabilities the knowledge and skills they need to live independently. In the case of this class, most of the students are young adults transitioning into adulthood. When I ask Edgar Morales what the purpose of the class is, he says “If their parents are not in the house, or if they want to live independently, they can be able to cook and live, and to be able to do things without their parents doing it for them.” By teaching real-world skills, The Independence Center prepares these young adults for living on their own.

Aside from the cooking class, there are numerous other independent living skills classes taught at The Independence Center. Some of the classes include Full Life Ahead, Healthy Relationships, Living Well with a Disability, Positive Attitude and Overcoming Barriers, Art Expression, and Money Management. This is just few of the many classes that are available, and new classes are being added all the time. If you or a loved one is interested in taking classes at The Independence Center, call Edgar Morales at 719-471-8181 x168.