Headmaster VL Gaffney, Founder

Gaffney (left) at a MFOL rally in Pflugerville, Texas, with the local Moms Demand Action coordinator in March 2018

My life’s work is to make life work.

In 2015, I was knocked off my feet by a common virus that had managed to damage several of my organs before being detected, in my sophomore year of high school. I was crushed. Day after day of staying home to rest by doc’s orders, I felt my world slipping away. Public school was suddenly the hardest thing I’d ever done, and I was faced with the truth about how inaccessible or education systems are in this country, even with the fantastic and readily available technology we are surrounded with. I battled for acknowledgement from teachers who I’d thought were my friends and allies before, who now only saw me as a burden and inconvenient “extra thing” to worry about.
The swift disappearance of all of the things I’d taken for granted put me on track to dream up and found Camp Oak Hallows, my first-of-its-kind mission to restore the dignity of disabled and alternative learner students, providing opportunities that “general population” neighborhood schools just can’t, in a way they just won’t. Together with some of my closest and most trusted friends, whom I respect and admire greatly, I’m building COH for every kid who has ever wondered if maybe they’d do better in school, if school were just a little different.


grade school

After pre-K12 Montessori at Marimont, I attended 5 Pflugerville ISD schools and participated in the Gifted and Talented (GT) program as well as Math Pentathalon, Destination Imagination, and Geography Bee. I withdrew early from Hendrickson HS as a qualifying graduate in 2018 to continue college credit pursuits beyond the Dual Credit courses I’d already taken from Austin Community College.

off campus

From the age of 5, I’ve been a Girl Scout, and now hold lifetime membership. At the time of award, I was the longest term Scout in my service unit. GSCTX was my first official employer, and I spent my 10th consecutive summer at Camp Texlake working in the kitchen with a team of other dedicated life-long Scouts. Going to camp was always the “focal point” of my year, that I looked forward to all through school, waiting to return to my “second home,” (though I always wished it was my first!) My love of Camp Texlake led me to branch out to more Girl Scout Camps across the state, and ultimately inspired the creation of Camp Oak Hallows.
I hold a Silver Award, but was unable to finish my Gold Award due to my health. I’ve made it a life goal to help as many other young Scouts as I can to earn their Bronze, Silver, and Gold Awards, as I consider them to be true marks of dedication and passion.
Beyond traditional summer camp, I also enjoy primitive camping and hold a National Parks Access Pass. I hope to some day visit every USNP, and my “perfect world” would have bus and rail lines servicing these as well as smaller parks and sites, making them more accessible by means other than car and air.

formal college

Austin Community College is my “home base” school where my credits come together on degree tracks, awarded by various schools nationwide. I’m making an effort to find the right programs offered by other institutions to make sure I’m getting the best and most well-rounded instruction I can have. Programs like Harvard and MIT’s collaboration EdX, and the CollegeBoard’s CLEP exams in conjunction with Modern States courses are favorites of mine.

personal life

Between school hours and Scouting, I’m an employee of the YMCA in Aquatics, and avid lover of dogs. I have two “Texas Heelers,” named Suzy and Lucy, both roadside rescues we suspect were “dumped” by a local breeder.
My favorite author is Neal Shusterman, and his “Unwind” series was among the first I just couldn’t put down, along with TL Stewart’s “Mysterious Benedict Society.”

Let’s make something together.