Mandan teen gets driver's license, helps family see relief

MANDAN, N.D. - Many high schoolers look forward to getting a driver’s license. It can mean a lot of personal freedom.

But, it means something very different for a Mandan teen, who sees it more as freedom for her entire family.

Shalae Baumgartner has taken the bus her entire life. Both of her parents have severe blindness and for the past five years, no one in the household could drive. But now the Baumgartner’s are finally seeing some relief.

On Feb. 14 Shalae Baumgartner turned 15, and the next day she passed her driver’s test.

“The first day after Shalae had her license she said, 'Mom you're not walking downtown to the bank, I'm giving you a ride,' and that was kind of unusual for me. I'm just not used to that. So, it was good,” said Helen Baumgartner, Shalae’s mother.

“When you have to go somewhere and get one thing, it takes you three hours,” said Shalae.

The Baumgartner’s have relied heavily on the bus, which picks up six blocks from their house.

“When I tell people it takes me five hours to get my groceries they're just astounded I would even do that, but that's just the way I've lived and I don't know any different,” said Helen.

Without a driver in the home, Shalae has missed out on school events and social activities.

Most people dread filling up at the pump but Shalae doesn't mind it at all considering she spent about $40 a year in bus fare alone just getting to and from school.

Now, Shalae and her family are leaving the bus behind.

Light of Christ Catholic Schools President Gerald Vetter says administration works their best to make arrangements for families like the Baumgartner’s by finding other students and faculty that have a similar route to school.