There were a lot of cooks in the kitchen Friday morning at Riverview Hope Campus, but it was for a good reason.

Thao Huynh (pronounced ‘Tao Win’), Belle Point science teacher, took about 12 students to cook fresh spaghetti for the homeless as part of their curriculum.

Biology students are studying organic compounds, such as proteins, fats and carbohydrates, while chemistry students have discussed reactions and matter — anything that takes up space.

Huynh didn’t want the lessons to be only about science or stay in the classroom, though, so she tied in the “You Matter” campaign. Students determined things that make them feel important, such as caring for their families, and what makes a person feel overlooked.

Despite feeling important because their families need them, some students are at Belle Point because their family units are inconsistent. Others were associated with negative groups or activities, had legal troubles or simply had to “grow up too fast” because of life experiences, Huynh said.

“I love them, but realistically, where they come from is tough,” Huynh said.

But that’s why Huynh wanted her students to serve. They can still do positive things in the community while putting their science into practice.

Students worked with Hope Campus chef Betsey Joannides to make fresh spaghetti and meatballs with onions, jalapeños, garlic, toasted bread and dessert. They learned the best way to cut a vegetable and stirred the sauce with a giant metal paddle. It was a hearty meal that would feed many bellies.

Then, after everything was cooked, the students had a quick how-to on serving food before they did it in real life.

“I can’t wait,” said student Trace Ashby. “I can’t wait to see the smiles on their faces.”

When the doors of the kitchen opened a little after 11:30 a.m., there were a lot of smiles and a lot of comments about how good everything smelled. Cooking, which is technically science, and helping others were both achieved.

Huynh said the kids might act like they don’t care or that the visit wasn’t a big deal, she knows they’re proud of themselves. They always are after doing community service together.

“Even though people see them as bad, there is something good in them. I think Belle Point students are kind of misunderstood,” Huynh said. “They always take pride in the good things they do, and I think that helps their self-esteem. I think they just need opportunities to be good.”

The students, who are sometimes forgotten about or passed over, joined churches, work groups, and other volunteers who have served meals or promoted the “You Matter” movement in the effort to make Fort Smith a better place.

“You Matter Fort Smith” was created at the end of June to remind residents they’re not alone — in life events or any mental health struggles they might face.

Signs can be seen all around town with messages of “You matter,” “Don’t give up” and “Be kind always.”

The organization knows signs won’t solve problems or take away pain, but they can be a positive reminder. Newer signs also feature a number to text if people are in crisis to connect them with community resources.

Hope Campus is one of those resources. It’s a partner with other organizations, such as Belle Point, to serve food, find housing, jobs and education for the homeless.

Chris Joannides, executive director, said the shelter serves people staying at the shelter and those who come in simply needing a hot meal.

“Anytime you’re hungry, we’ll feed you,” he said. “We don’t want anyone going hungry.”