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ALLmeansALL! Walnut Valley USD is proud to be a National Schools to Watch District with numerous National Blue Ribbon, California Gold Ribbon, and California Distinguished School awards. Our motto is KIDS FIRST... Every Student, Every Day!  

The heart of education

NEWS                                                                                     Walnut Valley Unified School District
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                                    880 S. Lemon Avenue
December 12, 2014                                                               Walnut, CA 91789

Kelli Gile, Office of Community Resources
(909) 595-1261 ext. 31204
The heart of education
Walnut Valley Celebrates HARTT Center Opening

WALNUT, CA--Walnut Valley Unified School District celebrated the opening of the Hockwalt Adult Resource & Transition Training (HARTT) Center on December 10.

“We are thrilled to open our doors to the community,” said educational specialist Cheryl Faren.

The HARTT Center serves 18-22 year old students with disabilities who are receiving a Certificate of Completion from high school and have significant needs for support as they transition to adulthood.

The Center teaches important transition skills based each student’s abilities with the goal of successfully transitioning to adult living. Skills are developed using community-based instruction in addition to classroom instruction.

About 25 young adults are enrolled at the Center, with an additional 20 attending classes through Mt. San Antonio College.

“Thank you to our community and district for supporting this program,” said Judi Koorndyk, coordinator of special education.

Over 100 guests had a chance to tour the educational center and enjoy holiday entertainment provided by Diamond Bar and Walnut High musicians. Neighborhood partner Sysco Foods donated and prepared a buffet dinner for the special event.

“We have students that have to overcome immense obstacles to be able to be happy and productive in society. These students have always been in the heart of our district,” said Jose Annicchiarico, principal at Ron Hockwalt Academies. 

Over 20 local business partners are helping every student develop job and vocational skills.

The Center features classrooms, a technology center, and career training. 

Faren teaches cooking skills in the industrial-size kitchen.   Students are also learning to do the laundry.

They like to “hang out” in the comfy recreation room and watch movies after returning from morning work at local businesses. Or they can play air hockey and foosball in the loft area.

An outdoor garden, recently donated by Home Depot, is blooming with vegetables and herbs.

“Whatever we plant here, we use in the kitchen. The project is all student-driven,” Faren added.

“We’ll be making salads next week!” she added after noticing a bounty of lettuce.

Until last year, students were transitioned to county programs after high school.  Changes in the state’s special education local plan (SELPA) allowed Walnut Valley to bring its students back home.

“We’re finally able to provide services to our own students!” Koorndyk said about the long-awaited program.

The HARTT Center in located at the Ron Hockwalt Academies alternative education campus in Walnut.

Classrooms and facilities have been renovated and decorated for the new program.

“You walk into the living room area and kitchen and can feel the heart and passion that was put into it. This is a wonderful place for our students to come and learn and employees to come and work. This is an amazing facility!” Superintendent Dr. Robert Taylor said.

“This program keeps with Dr. Hockwalt’s vision that no student would be left behind and that all students would be taken care of regardless of their age or their level. We can take care of all students,” Board President Cindy Ruiz added.

“I’m very appreciative of the whole program. The heart that the teachers have for these kids - it’s not something that they have to do, it’s something they want to do, ” praised parent Jim Reya.

His daughter, Cynthia transitioned to the HARTT Center after being part of a county program.

“The students here all grew up together in the district. I feel so much more at ease that she’s back in Walnut.”

“The name of this center is inspired by former superintendent Dr. Ron Hockwalt. He used to tell us that the true measurement of our success is the struggling students.   And this Center is really the embodiment of that philosophy,” Annicchiarico stated.

Koorndyk works at the state level and has written a three-year  $450,000 contract with the Department of Rehabilitation.

“It’s going to help us find jobs for students, that are here at the HARTT Center and at Diamond Bar and Walnut high schools,” Annicchiarico said.

“This school district really takes its vision seriously – to take care of the children. This is a wonderful gift for the children,” Reya added.


The HARTT Center in Walnut hosted an opening celebration on December 15. 

Ron Hockwalt Academies Principal Jose Annicchiarico (shown at left) recognized teachers and paraprofessionals for their dedicated work at the HARTT Center. Shown: HARTT Center Teachers Cheryl Faren, Alma Davis, with Joe Pool and Luz Stell from the Mt. SAC annex site, and Leia Hernandez representing Senator Bob Huff. 

HARTT Center students and parents accepted a certificate of recognition from the City of Diamond Bar at the opening celebration on December 10. Shown with Council Member Nancy Lyons and Principal Jose Annicchiarico. 

Judi Koorndyk, coordinator of special education and Cheryl Faren, educational specialist show off the HARTT Center’s new garden on December 10. 

The HARTT Center in Walnut hosted an opening celebration on December 10. Starbucks provided beverages during the special event and next-door-neighbor Sysco Foods donated and cooked a buffet dinner.