All week, a sweet aroma filled the halls of Havre de Grace High School. The scent of Christmas cookies wafted past classrooms and rows of lockers all the way to the main office.
About 165 culinary students baked thousands of the most popular cookies filled with chocolate chips or raisins and topped with cinnamon or sprinkles.
This was no ordinary project in the Foods for Healthy Living class. Their handiwork would top off at least 350 Christmas dinners that will be delivered by a local church to needy residents in the area.
"I like making something for other people," said James Baker, 14. "It's a good deed that tastes good."
Nancy Elder, who has helped organize the fourth annual Christmas dinner delivery for St. Patrick's Church, has encouraged youth to help deliver food and visit recipients, many of whom are elderly.
"It will be a small moment in our volunteers' Christmas," she said. "But it will be a big moment in someone else's day."
The students wanted to make sure their contribution to the dinners looked delectable. Ashley Perry, 17, worked to make perfectly shaped cookies, the kind found in a bakery.
"We have to make good stuff for these people," she said. "We are their secret cookers."
Culinary students donned white aprons, mixed batter and rotated cookie sheets filled with neat rows of 1-inch dough balls.
"The more uniform they are, the better they will look," said Travis Coakley, 17.
The ovens in all six classroom stoves were preheated to 350 degrees.
"We still check them about every three minutes," said Jamal Davis, 15. "I know these cookies will taste good, but I really want them to look good, too."
Their teacher, Kirsten Somers, supervised, advised and offered a few cooking tips. Amid the organized pandemonium, she pointed out possible pitfalls.
"Use a metal spatula to remove them from the sheets," she said. "If you use plastic, you will bend the cookies."
Kaya Julliard, 16, said every class provides new techniques and recipes that she has tried at home.
"I like cooking here with my friends," she said. "We help each other out, and now we are helping other people out."
"I would rather make dessert than meals," said Jacob Puiear, 15. "This is really awesome, a dessert that helps people out."
Erik Gilley, 15, expected to relinquish part of his holiday to deliver dinners and the cookies that he and classmates made.
"It might just make my Christmas merrier," he said. "I don't mind. I will get to eat a great dinner later anyway."
The classes had made 150 pies for the parish's annual Thanksgiving dinner. The cookie recipes were a snap compared with rolling and crimping crusts, students said.
"This is not the first time, and won't be the only time, that we help out a church," said Jason Wolbert, 15, who has been thinking of a culinary career since middle school. "We are helping less-fortunate people and maybe making their Christmas happier."
After the last batches were bagged, Ashley wondered whether hollow cookies were possible, so she could add a holiday message. Maybe next year, Somers said.
Jasmine Cole, 15, said her favorite class has taught her "to make new things, learn different cooking techniques, and get help with diet and proportions. And this week, we put time and effort into cooking for other people we don't even know."