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HARTT Center in Walnut helps disabled adults live independent lives

San Gabriel Valley Tribune
December 15, 2014
By Richard Irwin

HARTT Center in Walnut helps disabled adults live independent lives

The new HARTT Center in Walnut has a lot of heart. The Hockwalt Resource and Transition Training Center serves disabled students 18-22 years old who need help learning to lead independent lives.

Located on Lemon Avenue, the center has become a home away from home for these students. In fact, the center has all of comforts of a nice house.

Walnut Valley Unified held an open house on Wednesday to showcase the facility. Civic leaders joined in the celebration of the long anticipated center.

“Walnut Valley has always had an exceptional program for special education,” said Judi Koorndyk, Coordinator of Special Education. “But this is the kind of center we’ve been waiting for. It’s the capstone of our program.”

The pilot program began last year with eight students, according to teacher Cheryl Faren. It has grown to 40 students, including two affiliated classes at Mount San Antonio College.

Students are taught transition skills based on their abilities. The goal is to help them transition successfully to adult living. These skills are taught through community-based instruction as well as classroom instruction.

“We want to help them function as adults as much as possible,” Koorndyk said. “We want them to develop as much independence as their abilities allow.”

Don’t know how to cook? The center has a large kitchen, where students learn how to make their own meals.

“We teach them to cook from scratch and follow a recipe. They learn how much food they need for each person,” Faren noted. “They recently made a meal for students visiting from Walnut High.”

Don’t know how to do laundry? The HARTT Center has a laundry room where students learn to how use a new washer and dryer.

“In our formal dining room, we teach them how to set a table and decorate if they want to have a dinner party,” Faren said.

Outside, students and staff have started a garden. The courtyard was full of colorful flowers, as well as broccoli, lettuce, tomatoes and other vegetables.

In the classroom, they work on a Certificate of Completion from high school. In the computer lab, the students learn how to look for employment and fill out a job application.

Every young adult has a outside job, where they learn valuable work skills. The district has partnered with 20 local businesses to provide the work experience.

“We show them how to use the public transit system so they can get to a job or go to the market or movies,” Koorndyk said. “They go out every day with our staff to work at their jobs.”

Students like 21-year-old Gus Cobarrubias appreciate the instruction.

“I want to become a security guard, but right now I’m working at Kelly Paper for $9 an hour,” the Walnut resident said.

Other students work at Chick-fil-A Restaurant or the Discovered Treasures Thrift Store in Walnut. Classmate Jennifer Tran says she likes to learn how to do things. The 19-year-old showed us how to work the washer and dryer.

“We want to teach them the skills they’ll need for the rest of their lives, whether they want to move into a group home or stay in their current homes,” Koorndyk said.

“We show them how to navigate in the outside world, how to survive in our society,” agreed Ron Hockwalt Academy Principal Jose Annicchiarico.


Student Jennifer Tan, 19, left, and Gustavo Covarrubias, 21, shown the garden at HARTT Center in Walnut on Wednesday, Dec. 10, 2014. The center serves 18-22 year old students with disabilities who need support as they transition to adulthood. Watchara Phomicinda — Staff photographer

Student Jennifer Tan, 19, works on a drawing project at HARTT Center in Walnut. Watchara Phomicinda — Staff photographer