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Posted by on in News

I want to talk about disability. What is disability and what does it mean to have one?

Not so many years ago, it was discovered that my feet sustained fractures, several in each one. They weren’t healing, so I was sent to a wheel chair. For one month, I went out only for doctor appointments. I didn’t consider myself disabled, just lonely.

My doctor must have sensed this because he prescribed CRO boots, a kind of cement shoe that held my feet in one position and alleviated any pressure from walking. Each weighed about 5, maybe 8 lbs. and, because I couldn’t bend my feet, I walked like a penguin. It was hard to keep my balance, so I had to get a cane. It was hard to walk up and down curbs. We had to move from our upstairs apartment to one downstairs. It was hard to reach the bottom row of the bulk items in the supermarket. I learned to ask for help. I thought that was what it meant to be disabled.

Flash forward a few years. I no longer wear the CRO boots and I exchanged my blue walking cane for a white one. After I graduated from the White Cane Academy, aka, mobility training, I wanted to take the bus somewhere. I got my $2 ready but the driver said it was only $1. I didn’t remember any spare the air day holiday so I thought maybe it was my lucky day or the fare machine was broken. I took the bus a few days later with the same driver and again, I only had to pay $1.  The third time, I asked why. I knew what was coming, something that I didn’t think of the other two times, but I wanted him to say it: “Because you are disabled.”

I really didn’t feel disabled until he said those words. I was able to get around without assistance. I was able to attend to my shopping needs unaided. My questions persisted. What about me was disabled?

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by Allison Kennedy

CAA (College of adaptive arts) is one of a kind we offer so many more accommodations that any other place will. Teachers at CAA remind you of things if you're one to forget dance routines or lines for a school play.

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Our dance floor is not all we have. There's student government, public speaking, and acting classes and a yearly prom and a yearly movie festival. We have yearly play productions in the summer. Our dance classes have weekly performances where the dance teachers remind us of the routines right then and there in case we forget what routines to do in our performances. In our acting classes our teachers in the drama department remind us of our lines when we do our yearly plays.

There's no finals or midterms at our school!!!!!!!!!

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Disability Brings Us Together

As we come upon election time I have multiple opportunities throughout the day to hear what sets us apart as different represented groups. During these turbulent times, I cherish and relish our community of artists, contributors, leaders, survivors even more because of what brings us all together: Disability, or differing ability as we say at the College of Adaptive Arts.

My personal experience in the world of disability began when I was one year old when my sister was born with Down syndrome. I believe my family was thrust into a different realm or paradigm trying to meet her needs. It’s the only world I’ve ever known, and I love and adore the path I walk each day and the most awesome people I have encountered.

My network of friends, family, supporters, and contributors include leaders on the far right who are ultra-conservative to citizens on the far left who would be considered generously liberal. I have friends and colleagues who are very religious, and others in my close networks who are not religious at all. I cross paths each day with persons of very high independent wealth and persons who struggle for enough money to manage transportation, rent, & food. I have had the privilege of working with the most awesome people from all over the world, including China, Mexico, Israel, Japan, Venezuela, Iran, Argentina, Serbia, France, Italy & India. I have dear friends who are gay, straight, and transgender.

b2ap3_thumbnail_performance2.jpgThe most beautiful part of my network is that I love and cherish them all very dearly, primarily because our underlying bond is that we are and/or love someone very much who happens to have a disability. I sincerely believe that Disability brings out the best in us as human beings. For me, the highest determining factor to be in my network is: Will you help me support my loved one in need, and can I be a support to you to help you with your loved one? I know parents everyday who work the entire day to keep their child alive. I am humbled and overwhelmed by the daily obstacles that families face to support their loved ones, and it leaves me so inspired to see how these families live with integrity, grace, and humanity.

It seems so easy and effortless to me to befriend someone of a different race, economic group, political party when I know that person sincerely loves and believes in my loved one. I do the same for all of the awesome people I meet with disabilities who are in a different ‘group’ than myself. It doesn’t matter; what matters is Love, and love comes so easily through the bond of ‘Disability.’ That gives me such hope in humanity. Thank you, Angel, and to all of the amazing individuals I have met with disabilities, for allowing me to be a better person and giving me the privilege of meeting the best network of friends and supporters in the world.

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By Sharon Lea

As the first rainfall showers the Bay Area with some much needed precipitation, CAA is so thankful for the beautiful, sunny weather we had last weekend for the 5th Annual CAA Golf Classic. Our wonderful, generous donors hit a HOLE IN ONE helping us to raise $40,000 to further the mission to help our students be the best they can be. We can now offer more classes, workshops and awesome opportunities for our students! This was my first CAA Golf event and certainly will be one of many to come!

b2ap3_thumbnail_golfelvis16.jpgCAA is growing fast and to see so many smiling faces on the golf course was very exciting for me. I started with CAA as a volunteer just a few months ago and soon realized this special place I wanted to call home. Golfing may have brought us together on that day and yet, we came away with so much more! The day was all about friendship, giving hugs and laughing under the sun on the golf course. It was about making new friends and seeing old ones. It was about coming together and dancing with Elvis in front of his pink Cadillac! It was about enjoying a day of golf, no matter if you hit the ball or not. Golfing brought us together and we had a BALL!

The CAA Golf Classic was a HUGE success and we are extremely grateful to everyone who came and gave so much of their time and efforts! I cannot tell you how honored I am to be a part of such a supportive and loving community, where differing abilities are applauded and everyone is given the opportunity to shine. SO even though the rain is here, we still carry warm memories from the 5th Annual CAA Golf Classic. I am very excited to a part of the CAA family!

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CAA "Cardinal Nest"

By Pamela Lindsay, Dean of Curriculum & Instruction

Excitement is in the air as students return from their summer activities and prepare to settle into their CAA “Cardinal Nest.” The cool weather and early evenings may slow some people down but the start of a new fall quarter always gets us moving!

b2ap3_thumbnail_dancing2.jpgIf you are looking for a place to warm up, come by Latizmo hip-hop class and feel the heat. If the grace of falling leaves inspires you, visit our site during Classical and Contemporary or Graduate Dance. Are you a fall sports lover? Come join our Cardinal team activities and Cheerleading squad. If the fog on these brisk fall mornings reminds you of Frost or Keats, you may want to swing by Poetry class and compose a few lines. If the autumn fog turns to dramatic and stormy skies, share those images in Theatre Performance, Language Studies, Fine Arts, and Music classes. If you find yourself intrigued by all of the different and vibrant colors of the trees and their fallen leaves, learn about them in Applied Science and Mathematics. And of course, our TV/Film and Photojournalism students are here to capture all of your beautiful fall CAA memories.

Autumn is also a time for beautiful changes! In this spirit, the Fall 2016 Quarter now includes 30 classes scheduled across the week for accessibility by more students than ever. New workshops and performance opportunities offer even more excitement for current students. More adults discover and register for these opportunities every month while CAA’s student leaders share their knowledge as contributing citizens. Soon the coming fall festivals, performances, and holiday celebrations will give them a stage to do what they do so well…represent and celebrate the abilities of all individuals, and the ability of all individuals to affect change.

You are treasured part of the College of Adaptive Arts family and always welcome at our CAA home. Go to www.collegeofadaptivearts.org and click “Sign up for a student tour” to come in and see what’s new. We’ll keep the kettle on for you!

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by Nicole Kim


Nicole with ReneeI am a professor at College of Adaptive Arts for the Speaking with Confidence class but I am also a parent of an adult with Down syndrome. As Said’s mom, I’ve been used to being his advocate his entire life. Speaking for him and giving him a voice when he didn’t have one. Now that he is 26 and has just moved out in a supported living situation, I recognize the importance of him having his own voice and having the ability to speak for himself. Self-advocacy and self-determination are important skills for people with disabilities to possess and I’d like to share 3 ways you can help your adult gain self-advocacy skills.

Self-advocacy is the act of representing yourself or your own views. Self-determination is the process of taking control and making decisions that affect one’s life. Self-determination helps us make choices, decisions, problem solve, set and attain goals, self-advocate and perform independently. Both are essential for our adult children as they transition to adulthood and independence. It doesn’t matter where your student is in their process, even if they live with you or with caregivers, they can, and should always be, self-advocates!

1. Increase Self-Awareness - Help your student make a list of 3-5 things they are good at and what they need help with.

a. I don’t call it “strengths” and “weaknesses” because we ALL have things we need help with. Part of self-advocacy is knowing when to ask for help and that is NOT a weakness. When we are aware of our limits and abilities, we can be more aware of when we really need help and be able to articulate what help we need.

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by Danie Weaver

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So many times connections are made through a screen. However recently I was able to break that trend and host a student council event at Vasona Park in Los Gatos. Now I know what you are thinking why would you take a group of special needs individuals to a place outside where anything can happen? I know the hesitation of taking an individual with special needs to a new place. I have a younger sister with special needs. My parents knew very well how a new environment could be hit or miss with my sister,b2ap3_thumbnail_vasona2.jpg
but that never discouraged them from exposing us to new places. We were constantly going to parks, zoos, National Parks, and theme parks. If it was outside we went to it.

Allowing our special individuals to walk around at Vasona allows them to look at the world a little differently. One example is the conversations we had at that event. This conversation was about life jackets and my student insisted that he was a good swimmer and didn’t need a life vest. We were walking by the paddle boats and the students commented on the orange vest peoples were wearing. I assured the student that even the best swimmers could get tiredb2ap3_thumbnail_vasona3.jpg, it would still be important to wear a life vest. Another time we spent a good deal of time discussing why bridges were important. These students read signs about why it is imp
ortant not to feed the wildlife. They identified animals, walked around, and interacted with other park goers. But most importantly they were able to create connections with other students that were not behind a screen.

I enjoy these outings as much as the students because I get a chance to learn about our students in a way that’sb2ap3_thumbnail_vasona4.jpg outside the classroom. In the classroom, I am often guiding them to the correct answer but when we go out to parks with these students they are forced to put the correct answer together on their own. The wonderful thing about the park excursions is that there doesn’t need to be a correct answer. These outings are beneficial for our students because they form bonds with their fellow students that cannot be formed in a classroom. It’s real and genuine; much like one of my students who attended the activity informed everyone that he did not like ducks. Now the entire group made sure the ducks did not b2ap3_thumbnail_vasona5.jpgget too close. Instead of teasing because this student, the group helped make him feel safe. Sometimes the classroom environment can be one of competition where the students feel they must answer the most questions or dance closest to the teacher. A day outside observing everything that nature, there was no hierarchy, no competition, no trying to impress anyone, just enjoying a day at the park.

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b2ap3_thumbnail_adobelogo.jpgCollege of Adaptive Arts recently received a generous donation from the Adobe Foundation to build out our distance learning infrastructure at College of Adaptive Arts. This means that adults with differing abilities who have medical fragilities, do not live in the immediate area of the College, or do not have regular access to means of transportation will now be able to enroll in and participate real-time in a College of Adaptive Arts class.

Additionally, with the investment in Beam robots who we learned about through Bay Area Visionary Henry Evans, we will now be able to invite guest lecturers and speakers to give lectures at the College of Adaptive Arts virtually through the robust and very engaging Beam robot. We will be able to invite visionary leaders, artists, actors, performers, musicians from around the world to give guest lectures from the convenience of their homes. This investment from the Adobe Foundation is going to open up so many doors and opportunities for accessing, cultivating, and developing abilities in a population of citizens that has been historically overlooked of their authentic and rich abilities.

We are making traction in prodding this juggernaut idea of providing a lifelong, equitable collegiate experience into full momentum. The Adobe Foundation has reinforced a vibrant and essential message that distance learning will play a fundamental role in adult education for students with differing abilities.

Next step in Moving this Mountain: Getting the College of Adaptive Arts onto a college campus to be able to operate as an independent charter school and learn to share resources and space in a college environment. This last essential piece will ensure that this model can be replicated, because all large metropolitans have college campuses that could potentially host a charter entity of providing accessible, adult education. CAA students would benefit from enjoying a collegiate experience alongside typical peers going to college. CAA would like to demonstrate that we can share resources of a college campus such as dance studios, theatres, radio stations, and be respectful, mindful, and innovative partners on a college campus.

This would also be a rich learning hub for students at these institutions in researching areas of autism, brain development, human motivation, lifelong learning, and best practices in adult education. If you have ideas on helping us land on an institution of higher education, we’d love to hear from you! DeAnna Pursai, Executive Director, deanna@collegeofadaptivearts.org

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Posted by on in Podcasts

Episode #1: Eric Speaking
5/16/16

The College of Adaptive Arts (CAA) is a cutting edge Bay Area nonprofit paving a new path for turning adults with disabilities into successful contributing citizens through the arts. We provide an environment where students can flourish and thrive and continue to push the boundaries of their potential. CAA offers classes in the arts, health, and wellness. Scholarships are available.

caaheart

Podcast Credits: The College of Adaptive Arts (CAA) is a cutting edge Bay Area nonprofit paving a new path for turning adults with disabilities into successful contributing citizens through the arts. We provide an environment where students can flourish and thrive and continue to push the boundaries of their potential. CAA offers classes in the arts, health, and wellness. Scholarships are available.

Acknowledgements: The College of Adaptive Arts (CAA) is a cutting edge Bay Area nonprofit paving a new path for turning adults with disabilities into successful contributing citizens through the arts. We provide an environment where students can flourish and thrive and continue to push the boundaries of their potential. CAA offers classes in the arts, health, and wellness. Scholarships are available.

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b2ap3_thumbnail_performance2.jpgIt has been a momentous year at the College of Adaptive Arts with our recent vendorization from San Andreas Regional Center as well as the creation of our 8th School of Instruction: School of Science and Technology.

This past year, we’ve had 4 corporate investors step up to underwrite a College of Adaptive Arts School of Instruction, which means we are seeking just 4 more corporate investors to have each of our 8 schools underwritten this fiscal year.

These investments have helped the CAA golf team execute another outstanding golf tournament, have helped to bring on a School of Television and Film Professor of Videography and Editing, and have helped the School of Music construct a professional music recording studio.

The ROI for your investment is giving adults with special needs viable, creative, and constructive paths to become successful contributing citizens by maximizing their abilities in the arts, health, and wellness. Adults who historically have not had access to a collegiate education are finally being educated in an equitable, accessible environment which validates and cultivates their abilities. Students, professors, and parents and careproviders have renewed hope that their skills can be utilized and illuminated to make this world a better place. And it has happened because of local, private investor support.

Here are our 8 Schools of Instruction, classes included within each school, and underwriting opportunities:

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Poetry Gives Voices to the Voiceless

by Danie Weaver, Director, School of Communications

Poetry and I have had a love and hate relationship. While I was a child, poetry was my outlet.  At family parties I shared fun poems about my thoughts and feelings about the holiday. Poetry was full of beautiful images of feelings, colors and traditions. However, that impression of poetry changed when I went to college. The professor had the belief that poetry was the author’s hidden agenda and not about nature, feelings, or beautiful imagery. It was just devoid words on a page emotion. And most of the analysis of said poetry was regurgitated back to please my professor.  I began to hate poetry. College also became the time that I discovered that I had a learning disability that corresponded mostly to math, formulas, and also correlated with grammar.  I trudged through and I graduated with my Bachelors in English with the belief of two things:

  1. I would never teach!
  2. I would avoid poetry at all costs!

All of these ideas changed when I got diagnosed with Stage 2 Hodgkin’s Lymphoma in 2011. Poetry was my solace for all the questions, emotions, and just navigating the new normal of being a cancer patient. Poetry was also not constricted with grammar. I could write whole lines void of grammar, lines of poetry that flowed through my pen to the page much like questions that ran through my head.  Poetry with its freedom allowed me to focus and control one aspect of my life.  I’ve often found solace in writing, but my poetry wasn’t hiding behind a character.  It was fully me.  All of me exposed.

While I was having cancer treatments, since my husband was working, I needed to have people stay with me during the day.  I got the chance to observe a Showboaters class at College of Adaptive Arts.  My younger sister was attending this class.  I was impressed with the amount of respect given to the students. I knew I wanted to be part of the organization. So I connected with the Dean and said I could teach Poetry.  Apparently my life plan had changed, because now I was okay with poetry and teaching.

The dean jumped at the idea of a poetry class and I started an evening class with four students. I was unaware how much independent writing they could do.  I led them through an “I Am poem,” a basic poetry form, which engages the writer in simple but poignant statements from feelings to the physical world. The answers were simple but complex, beautiful and normal. I realized that my students had a unique way of viewing the world. The greatest praise I received for that class was that one of my students felt smart for the first time in his life.

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Greetings from the S.S. Cardinal

by Pamela Lindsay

It is hard to believe our ship has reached Spring 2016. Our first CAA quarter in the fall of 2009 seems oceans away. How far the journey has taken us...and how many journeys lie ahead for our amazing star students! We acknowledge the five foundational points that create those shooting stars.

First, our student families who continue to support and inform the mission of CAA and vision for ongoing growth of new and exciting opportunities for changing perceptions of ability.

Second, our staff of teachers and administrators who hear that information and act on it to support dreams and convert them to tangible actions and programs propelling students toward their goals.

Third, our executive board who gift us with their desire to be acknowledged as cheerleaders and messengers of the work being done by CAA's staff and students. Their presence within our CAA community elevates awareness and recognition of the importance and talents of our star students.

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by DeAnna Pursai

It is truly most inspirational to watch the College of Adaptive Arts continue to come into fruition as more passionate and committed students, families, and visionaries find and support the College of adaptive Arts.  CAA in many ways parallels the qualities of the rich and robust innovative start-ups in the valley. 

b2ap3_thumbnail_graduationcheering.jpgCAA is forging into unchartered territory by providing a service and model for adults with special that has rarely been tried before.  It’s not a day program; students over the age of 18 simply sign up for the 1 ½ hour-long courses that they are interested in taking.  CAA does not have a fixed period an adult can only attend, nor or a cap on an age limit.  It’s not a pure arts program: CAA offers 8 distinct schools of instruction, including the Schools of Music, Dance, Theatre, TV/Film, Art, Communications, Health & Wellness & Science & Technology. 

CAA is building its own accreditation system of units and courses which are private and nontransferable, but nonetheless based squarely in best practices in adult learning theory and special needs education.  CAA provides a lifelong, equitable collegiate experience to adults with special needs who can and want to be successful contributing citizens, but where a junior-college level Associate’s degree will not be within reach.

CAA also does not serve just one type or degree of adult with special need.  CAA has students with Down syndrome, autism, medical fragilities such as epilepsy, cancer, & diabetes, adults with cerebral palsy, blindness, and developmental delays.  CAA serves students who are perceived as high-functioning and students who are very shy, nonverbal, and need to attend with a careprovider.  CAA does not do medication, toileting, babysitting, or behavior – the bar is set high with the expectations that these adult students want to be there to learn, create, and contribute.

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Dean's Blog - 2/28/2016

by Pamela Lindsay

Hello from the decks of our trusty CAA ship! As we sail past the end of the Winter quarter toward Spring '16, we are excited about the opportunities on the near horizon. The students can see opportunities in growing departments of study and fresh experiences with their experienced professors at the wheel. Our staff members see opportunities for growth of collaborations with current and new community partners. The student families are enjoying the ride, watching their Cardinals navigate their varied environments of study and performance.

CAA's network of supportive organizations and friends of the college are providing safe and exciting ports for the sharing of these diverse experiences. As founders, DeAnna and I are excited to see through the end of our telescope the real manifestation of visions held since inception in 2009. New vendorization of classes means that our students with a passion for lifelong learning through CAA's unique channel of liberal arts and performance are able to officially look forward to such goals.

This unique vendorization provides an extra stamp on our passport that will be very important while traveling through current and future zones of work. It also charts a new and less traveled course on our mission map. The phenomenal and committed CAA board sees opportunities for trailblazing on behalf of the students with continued, inspiring passion and commitment. We are looking forward to their generation of great steam while powering ahead.

There is much to do as we push off into these new waters. We therefore thank you for your ongoing generosity of support, offered in so many different ways. This is your vessel! Let's load up, open the sails, and follow the brilliant constellations created by the talents of each of our students' big, bright stars!

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Something's Happening...

by DeAnna Pursai

I believe that Friday this past Friday night is a game-changer for the College of Adaptive Arts and more importantly for perception of artistic expression b2ap3_thumbnail_showcase2.jpgand disability. College of Adaptive Arts showcased the talents and artistic creations of the CAA Superstaff at the School of Arts & Culture at the majestic campus Mexican Heritage Plaza on east side of San Jose. The “mountain” obstructing true human potential took a veritable heave at about 9:30pm to a thunderous applause during the finale song of CAA’s Alma Mater, Just Believe.

I have been telling folks for years that we have the most awesome staff at the College of Adaptive Arts. We have fine artists, dancers, actors, singers, musicians, poets. They are absolutely dedicated to teaching their students at the College of Adaptive Arts. Many have other jobs and just come in to teach one or 2 classes a week during CAA’s 8-week quarters. Many do not have a chance to get to know other professors in different departments. Certainly none of us are getting monetarily rich in our positions.

But what connects us all at a very base level is Disability and Love of the Arts. Many of the CAA Superstaff, myself included, have disabilities. I was diab2ap3_thumbnail_showcase3.jpggnosed with OCD & anxiety disorder in 2004. Some of our staff are blind and visually-impaired. Some of our staff have dyslexia; some are cancer survivors. Many of us are patching together multiple jobs to make ends meets. Many staff may not have been successful in a traditional, typical workforce environment.

But when you walk through the doors of the College of Adaptive Arts, all of those traditional stereotypes just melt away. There’s a palpable love in the air that our students, adult learners with special needs, radiate when they are in this unique learning environment. The students bring such an eagerness to learn, to create, to contribute – and a sincere gratefulness to our staff for honoring them and paying attention to them. 

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by LeAnn Carrillo, School of Health and Wellness Director 

b2ap3_thumbnail_leannc.jpgWhen thinking about my experience thus far as a College of Adaptive Arts (CAA) professor, two words immediately come to mind…love and freedom. I think of these words because these ideas can be applied to students, professors, and guardians who are involved with the college. It is truly a great environment with amazing students who do not get this opportunity from other community organizations.

Love is shown at CAA everyday; from the parents, to students, to professors, everyone involved honestly cares about the college and loves what they do. I have a full-time job that is very demanding with my time, so I am unable to work for CAA as much as I would like. When I am able to go to the site, many professors give me a hug and tell me how they would like to see me more. Same goes for the students, and they notice when I am able to be there. This makes me feel the love that is shown for the professors; the students really care and want to learn from their professors. 

The freedom to not only express what you, as the professor, think is important to the students, but the students have the freedom to pick and choose whatever course of study they wish. As the professor of Health and Wellness, I like to fill my class curriculum with helpful hints that hopefully students will retain and use in everyday life. Ideas like proper nutrition, hydration, hygiene, and work-out tips. I feel like these are important items for any young adult to know and implement in their everyday life. As a professor, I have the freedom to deliver these concepts and the students will learn, and hopefully, retain this information every quarter. It is a win-win situation. 

In sum, my experience as a professor with CAA has been amazing; the love and freedom to try to make a difference in with community with adults who otherwise will not have this opportunity to excel anywhere else. It is a great place which I hope to be a part of for years to come.

Thank you 

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CAA Supporters

by CAA Supporter - Donna Dubinsky & Len Shustek

We met CAA as a result of my brother Michael's volunteer work there. He started getting more and more involved, so we figured we would check it out. We started by attending a class to get an idea for the type of curriculum that was proposed. I watched a fascinating group put together a storyboard for an animated video. Although it was clear that the capabilities amongst the students varied greatly, they worked nicely as a team to get to a good result.

We've also attended some performances and graduation events, as well as toured the current facility. We became supporters of CAA because we just cannot imagine a better way to support these young adults. They clearly gain a great deal out of the experience at CAA. Not only are they being personally enriched by the program material, they are learning key skills of collaboration and participation. The staff at CAA treats the students with the utmost respect and clearly values their contributions at whatever level. The students show enormous support of each other as well.

We're happy to be part of the CAA community.

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Donor Circle for the Arts - Silicon Valley Community Foundation

The Donor Circle for the Arts at Silicon Valley Community Foundation is committed to serving under-served populations through the arts. We believe that the arts help create vibrant, productive, and expressive communities. We fund organizations that work with children and adults, represent cultures, unite communities, and advocate for the arts. The College of Adaptive Arts is an organization that the donor circle has chosen to fund because we believe that all people, regardless of age or ability, should experience the enrichment of the arts. CAA gives a segment of our population a chance to identify with something greater than themselves or their abilities, and be acknowledged as productive and vivacious people.

Our hope is that organizations like CAA can garner even more community support so that the important work that they do can continue to thrive. It’s through their vision and commitment that we see hope for the future of the arts as a unifying force. Thank you, CAA, for representing those with a voice just waiting to be heard!

Tobi S. Becerra
Philanthropy Advisor
Silicon Valley Community Foundation
Direct: 650.450.5496 | tsbecerra@siliconvalleycf.org

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b2ap3_thumbnail_jpleimann.jpgby Jen Pleimann

It is that time of year when we typically take some time to reflect on the past year and set goals and ambitions for the year ahead. At CAA, we have a lot to celebrate - new board members, fundraising goals met, amazing new students, dedicated professors, visionary leaders, supportive parents and a site to call home for quarterly classes and events.

I have now been a part of CAA’s board for four years and every year gets better - our community grows, more doors are opened and the mountain is moved a little bit more for our students; but I think what is most exciting for the board and visionary leaders at this time is the true understanding of who we really are.

As a new organization and a non-profit, it is not always easy to find your “fit.” In CAA’s early days, we struggled to find our niche in the special needs world. We struggled to fit into special education, as special education stops at age 22. We struggled to understand how our program complemented the current structure of day programs. We struggled to find grants that were open to an entirely new concept and new way of thinking. And then we realized, we do not fit. We are different.

Being different brings many opportunities, but these opportunities come with challenges. It takes time to introduce changes to the way the things have historically been done and seen. It takes time to educate the broader community not only about what we do but WHY we do it. It takes time for grant makers and funding providers to understand the long term benefits of such a program. And it takes time for governing bodies to turn their heads and recognize the untapped potential of adults with disabilities.

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b2ap3_thumbnail_toniforblog.jpgAs a Mountain Mover at the College of Adaptive Arts, I find that every time I attend an event or visit the school, I am uplifted. My first experience with DeAnna Pursai, the Executive Director, motivated me to learn more about the college. DeAnna and I connected over the topic of education and developed a friendship. I invited her Show Boaters to appear for a conference of my educational honor society, Delta Kappa Gamma. The entire audience was uplifted by the students’ enthusiastic dance routines and the poise with which each student spoke into the microphone.

The next time I visited a CAA event was their annual film festival. The films emphasized the abilities of persons with developmental delays. What stood out to me was the pure joy that the individuals in the films radiated when they were doing what showcased their abilities. The College of Adaptive Arts is dedicated to reaching their students at the appropriate level of expertise and motivating them to experience that same joy of showcasing ability.

Recently I attended the graduation ceremony and holiday performance for the students of the class of 2015. It was truly a showcase of academic and artistic accomplishment. The evening included singing, piano, guitar, public speaking and, of course, the distribution of diplomas. I was filled with joy at the success and pride of the students and their families.

Today my husband said to me, “One of the best moments of this holiday season was attending the graduation ceremony for the College of Adaptive Arts.” That’s what I mean by contagious! I hope you have an opportunity to visit the college, experience the contagious joy, and contribute in some way to the success of CAA.

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