Lucas Schaefer

April 07, 2017

Every child is unique, but Lucas Schaefer is extraordinarily rare…literally. He was born with Chromosome 18p Deletion Syndrome; his family jokes that it’s a syndrome so rare that it doesn’t even get a catchy name. He has one of 440 known cases in the world tracked by the Chromosome 18 Registry. Lucas had neurosurgery at 2 months, open heart surgery at 4 months, and has had 8 other lesser surgeries since that time. When they received his diagnosis, his family was told that he would never walk, never talk, and would likely die young. They refused to give up on and always pushed him, Lucas has always welcomed the challenge and never been afraid to work hard. When it became apparent that his current school would no longer work for him, the Arizona Leadership Foundation stepped-in to help find an alternate option. The foundation realized his past success and future potential, and was eager to work with the Schaefer family. The family already had an open line of communication with New Way Academy, and were genuinely enthusiastic to see Lucas transition there. The entire process was seamless, and the Schaefers were so thankful that the staff at Arizona Leadership Foundation have been warm, friendly, and incredibly responsive. The result has been life changing; Lucas is happy, relaxed, and full of self-confidence.

As mentioned, Lucas was doing great in a public-school setting, until 4th grade when it became apparent that public school resources were unable to meet his needs. Lucas is a complicated student – he is academically on grade level, but has very slow processing time which is further complicated by fine motor challenges, and out-of-classroom demands of speech therapy and physical therapy. As a result, he was missing a huge amount of his core curriculum due to pull-out services for special education. The family selected New Way Academy because the staff there was completely unfazed by his needs; in fact, they welcomed the challenge. New Way Academy incorporated services like speech and physical therapy into his normal academic day, so that he doesn’t miss out on key academics. There is an incredibly high teacher to student ratio (his math class has 4 kids in it), and he is receiving incredibly personalized education that challenges him, but also accommodates his specific needs. New Way Academy has been nothing short of transformational.

In school, Lucas loves Language Arts, where they get to discuss and debate current events. He also enjoys math. And this year he had Dance class, which he absolutely loved! Lucas had a speaking role in the school play, Annie, and he also had a role in the high school production of Wizard of Oz. He also is a part of the Art Club after-school. Lucas plays baseball with Miracle League of Arizona, and loves cars and elevators. His family thought he was the only 5th grader on the planet who was fascinated by elevators but – believe it or not – the staff at New Way discovered that another child at New Way also loved elevators and connected the two of them.

The Schaefers are excited about the prospect of Lucas being able to stay at New Way Academy until he goes to college. They’re happy that he can be there through High School because change can be hard for a kid like Lucas. Right now, Lucas is looking ahead and wants to go to ASU and be a Sun Devil just like his mom.