10 Country: Danielle's Big Break - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

10 Country: Danielle's Big Break

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January 15, 2008

Tift Co. --- Schools often have lots of clubs for their students to join, but one club goes beyond giving them something to do. It helps special students live their lives better.

No one knows a child better than a mother who faces harsh by reality all too often.

"Her growing up, getting older," says Tammy Justice as she brushes the hair of her daughter, Danielle, before she leaves for school.

Tammy notices a change with Danielle.

"She jumps up and gets ready. She knows she gets to serve coffee and see everyone," says Tammy.

Danielle feels excited about what some people might consider a menial job.

"Making the hot chocolate and the coffee," says Danielle as she gets ready to take orders in a ticket box office turned café, where everyone knows your name.

"Hey, Joshua," says Danielle to one of their regular customers.

A café in name. Customers sit in the school's lunchroom to enjoy their drinks.

Why would high school students want to buy coffee or hot chocolate when they could make it at home?

"It's easier just to order it and say, ‘Hey, I want this and they give it to me,'" says Michaela Harrell.

"I have to have my coffee to get started," says another customer.

No problem.

 "They sell really good coffee," says another customer who pays for a shot or two of flavoring.

The café doesn't sell just any brand of coffee. They sell Starbucks' coffee.

Some customers prefer hot chocolate.

"Sometimes I get it with marshmallows," says a customer.

Behind the scenes, the students who operate the Special Hearts Café learn about life an easier way.

"We're training them to be independent," says Tammy Jones, a special needs teacher at Tift County High School.

The café taught Derrick Fudge about the value of money.

"If you don't know how to count money, that's how you get cheated."

He doesn't need a calculator to make change, either.

The high school teachers see lasting value with the café.

"It gives them value. It gives them a sense of pride and it gives them something other people value," says Channon Collins.

Special needs students' need just as much understanding as other students, but often they feel left out or ignored. In the café, everyone feels needed and wanted for who they are.

"I think they are all success stories. They have blossomed," says Tammy Jones, the special needs teacher.

Filling their lives with a sense of belonging, to feel treated like any other high school student for a few hours a day at breakfast and at lunch.

"It's wonderful," says Tammy Justice, Danielle's mother. 

To feel a part instead of being closed out.

Any profits made at the Special Hearts Café go to find the class's special outings and to help needy children.