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by DeAnna Pursai

We use this phrase often at the College of Adaptive Arts, in our mission, our vision, our mottos in reference to our dynamic student body and professors and staff. This past week we’ve had our first amazing dance video go viral, and it truly represents the essence of what it means to CAA to empower our Student Body to be Successful Contributing Citizens through the Arts. This particular student dancer wore her very own red dress (all the other student dancers were in black), and performed her own choreography to a piece that she self-selected. It was the Spring Recital Night of our Graduate Dance Clinic of student dancers, choreographers, and budding dance instructors.

This student’s joy of dance and artistic expression is sincerely palpable and infectious. She was sincerely and truly in her element, dancing with conviction, eloquence, and sheer joy. One of the beautiful back stories is that her father was in the audience, and it is a rare treat when he can get off work and enjoy his daughter’s performance. The saying above the dance mirror states ‘To Watch Us Dance is to Hear Our Hearts Speak’ (Hopi Native American saying). In this dancer’s instance, her heart spoke with such sincere conviction and has touched so many hearts in the afterglow.

These dancers, all adults with disabilities, make such exquisite contributions to our College each and every time they step through the CAA doors to continue to grow, learn, share, and performb2ap3_thumbnail_dancing2.jpg. They have such rich stories to tell through their dance moves, their poetry, their paintbrushes, their cameras, their musical instruments. It is such a compelling story that makes everyone around them feel more alive and vibrant. When I’m with the students at the College of Adaptive Arts, I become recalibrated each time as to what is really important and meaningful in the overall realm of life.

Another beautiful backstory I’d like to share is that this video that went viral was videotaped, edited, and uploaded as well by a CAA Professor who is also an adult with a differing ability. Many of our staff have struggled in a typical workforce environment. At the College of Adaptive Arts, we are creating a safe, joyful and creative space for our professors and staff to also flourish and thrive in their authentic gifts and abilities.

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by Danie Weaver


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,

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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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