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Stories / Youth

I Hope the Pies Were Good

It started with a desire to learn more about her family's traditions and earn a little spending money in the process.

BY MARY DUNBAR, FRIEND/PROFESSIONAL MENTOR

This was one of my favorite days at work ever―in 7 years! Makayla* baked 23 sweet potato pies from scratch and sold them in order to make some spending money ahead of the holidays! 

She wrote out the grocery list. We went shopping and she picked out all of the ingredients. She peeled the potatoes, cut them, boiled them, mashed them, and added all of the ingredients. She spent about 12 hours in the kitchen with her grandma learning her family’s recipe and mastering the art of making sweet potato pies! 

Makayla, who is 12-years-old, can get frustrated and shut down when challenged. I even noted to a coworker the day before that I knew this was going to be a challenging experience for her, and there was a chance she would give up. When I picked her up she was tired, hungry, and not excited to deliver the pies. We talked about how she almost quit at one point and told her grandma she could keep the money and finish the pies, but then she managed to jump back in. 

We identified things that made it challenging. She baked all day yesterday and didn't eat. Her little siblings were crying and wanting her to hold them while cooking. She had gotten really frustrated with how long it was taking. We talked about how those are realities for so many people. We talked about perseverance, self-determination, self-management, positive relationships, and more. 

 As we were dropping off the pies, she started talking with people about the process. She described how challenging it was and how she had wanted to give up. She began reflecting on how her hard work was earning her money, and she was actually providing a service―giving people something that she had put hard work into! 

As we went along, she counted her money, subtracting the cost of the ingredients, and kept a running total of her earnings. 

 One coworker bought a pie to donate. As we were delivering the pies, Makayla saw a woman with a sign saying that she had 2 young kids. We pulled over and Makayla got out to give the woman the pie. The woman thanked Makayla profusely and noted her kids will enjoy it. Makayla got back into the car and said, "Do you think I should give her $10 of the money I earned? I'm really feeling like giving and sharing today." She jumped back out and gave the woman $10. When she returned, she talked about how good it felt to help someone else. 

On the way home, she opened up about where she was emotionally in life and the challenges that she and her family were facing. 

 In the end, she totally rocked it! This was a big project, and she took it on, worked through her frustrations, and accomplished her goal! She earned $166, and perhaps best of all, learned her family’s sweet potato pie recipe! 

Much appreciation to everyone who bought a pie and for your kind, gracious, thoughtful interactions with Makayla. I hope the pies were good! 

Thank you all, and Happy Holidays.

* Name has been changed to protect our program youth. Photo shown is not of the individuals in the story.