Community Learning Services

By: Danielle Banks
By: Danielle Banks

Fourteen-year-old Daniel Hart is a student at Community Learning Services. He is the only one. For him it's a place to go learn basic day-to-day skills. For his mother, it's an end to many worries.

Tammy Lawrence is Daniel's mother. She says, "It means a lot. He may eventually turn out to have a decent life as opposed to what he may have had before when we were looking at residential placement."

Daniel has a variety of developmental disabilities including mental retardation, autism, and ADHD. These were causing him to have problems in public school. Mike Shaffren is the co-director of CLS. He says, "Rockingham County and Harrisonburg school systems provide very good services to special ed kids, but they don't have the ability or the resources to meet the needs of the extremely difficult kids."

Shaffren and his wife, Karen, set out on a mission to create a place for kids like Daniel. But a school like this doesn't happen overnight. Shaffren continues, "It's a lot of documentation, a lot of credentials have to be obtained and it's a long process, but there's no assurance that you're gonna get kids."

And that's what the Shaffren's want. More kids like Daniel they can help. Karen Shaffren says, "It's really important that people understand that even though we don't look like a regular school building that we have the skills and materials to provide that service."

Daniel will graduate school with a special academic diploma and the skills he needs to handle the real world. For his mother, this is as good as it gets. She says, "They've done a beautiful job. I couldn't thank them enough."

Right now, Mike and Karen are looking to add three more students. For the future, the sky is the limit.


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