Donna Sluka describes her personal style as fun, vibrant, trendy and classy. "I like to wear fun dresses in bright colors like fuchsia and blue," she says. "I don't wear black." Sluka's favorite fashion must-have is a Coach bag.
"I am a big Coach bag person," she says. "I get a new one for every holiday and give away some of my older bags to family friends and people who cannot afford to have one.
"Shop online, a glass of wine and I'm fine," Sluka says. "That really is my motto."
The busy mother of three and a Founding Parent of REED Academy in Oakland hardly finds time to hit up the malls and boutiques around Bergen County.
"I am a big online shopper and enjoy clothing from Victoria's Secret," she says. "Their clothing is sexy yet classy."
When Sluka does find time to shop, she heads to Cache and Tahari, and to Macy's for the brand INC.
"I also like flashy jewelry from the Hot Jewelry Box in Ridgewood," Sluka says. "I have a few fine jewelry pieces that I like to mix with costume jewelry."
While Sluka's personality is bubbly and bright to match her fashion style, she is also driven, determined and extremely serious when it comes to her children and her job as a special educator for the state. Her youngest son, Connor, who is now 13, was diagnosed with autism at a young age.
"My husband, Michael, and I knew we would be in this for the long haul and were desperate for resources for our son," she says. "We wanted to help Connor as well as other families who are affected by autism."
Ten years ago, the Slukas together with several other families started REED Academy. (Resources for Effective Educational Development.) After moving locations from Temple Beth Or in Washington Township to a church in Garfield, they built a 25,000-square-foot facility in Oakland for children ages 3 through 21, as well as an adult services wing to provide a "lifespan plan" for many families.
"I want my son to be productive and to give back to the state of New Jersey," Sluka says. "I don't have my hand out; I have a plan. At the REED Academy, our kids are learning how to scan and package groceries, how to make beds and empty garbages, and how to package gifts for the victims of Hurricane Sandy."
Sluka lives by the importance of a simple phrase her deceased mother told her when she was young: "Never say no and never take no for an answer."
"So many people told me that opening a school couldn't be done, because they couldn't do it," she says. "If I listened to what people told me and gave up after all of the rejections I received, REED Academy would have never happened. I will always fight for my kids and I didn't give up."
Sluka and her husband are working on a new project to help senior citizens who want to stay in their homes but need assistance. "Senior Helpers of Paramus" will offer seniors services such as helping with cleaning, grocery shopping, companionship, cooking and accompanying them to doctors appointments.
Sluka enjoys spending quality time with her family at their Paramus home, cooking, baking and going out with her girlfriends once every few weeks on a Friday night.
"It's my outlet," she says.
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