As mentioned in a previous article, “Mesquite is a town full of civic organizations and non-profit groups.” These groups and those volunteer opportunities focus mainly on adult or family situations and events.
This article is about a different volunteer opportunity, one that some overlook and others may not think possible, volunteering to enrich the lives of the children and ultimately our future.
One woman, Janet DePedro, knew what was possible and surely didn’t pass up the opportunity to enrich the cultural experiences of the children in the third grade classes at Virgin Valley Elementary School.
A retired teacher and now text book writer, DePedro lived in Alaska for thirty five years and taught school there for 27. During her time in Alaska she accumulated a great deal of knowledge about Alaskan Eskimos and their culture.
Throughout her life in the “Last Frontier” DePedro gathered many Alaskan artifacts which she happily took to the Virgin Valley Elementary School along with stories about the Alaskan culture and shared them with the third grade classes.
DePedro explained, “I called the school to see if the stories and the artifacts were indeed something the teachers would be interested in her sharing with the students and as fate would have it, the third graders were presently reading a book about Alaska so the timing couldn’t have been more perfect.”
To top off her story telling, DePedro finished with teaching the children to make Eskimo ice cream which is called akutaq. (The word comes from “Yupik” and means “something mixed.”) “The ingredients normally used in the making of this treat are whale blubber or seal oil but since those items are scarce in the desert, I substituted those two ingredients with something more readily available in the desert… Crisco”, said DePedro.
DePedro went on to explain that the original Eskimo ice cream, the real stuff, using the ingredients mentioned, actually tastes like rancid fish with berries, “The Crisco makes it taste much better”, she said.
The ingredients to make the ice cream for over 100 children were donated by Mesquite Realty and DePedro said she couldn’t have done this all by herself, she’s not only grateful that Mesquite Realty donated the ingredients but she’s also very happy to have had a host of wonderful parent volunteers to help in the making of the not so icy treat.
That’s right, the Eskimo ice cream is actually closer to the consistency and taste of butter cream frosting, not “icy” at all but DePedro said that in Alaska the “icy” comes from the children mixing the basic ingredients with snow which is what chills their treat to it’s “ice creamy” goodness.
Some of the artifacts and items that DePedro shared with the children were a Kuspuk, (Eskimo’s summer parka), mukluks (Eskimo boots), ulu (Eskimo knife), Eskimo face masks and trappers hats, an Eskimo yo-yo, ivory and a fossilized bear skull which the children all found quite fascinating but “the ice cream was the best”, said Sadie Fullerton, a third grade student from Mrs. Wilson’s class. The children were able to take the ice cream home to share with parents and siblings.
The children were perched on the edges of their seats listening to DePedro share her stories of the “Last Frontier” and they agreed that her presentation was much more interesting than just reading about Alaska.
The third grade classes now have a better and more hands on understanding of the books they’re reading in class because one volunteer didn’t overlook this particular volunteer opportunity.
The children loved DePedro, the volunteer who enriched their lives and told stories about the Eskimo culture, but most of all… they loved the ice cream!