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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 |

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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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b2ap3_thumbnail_aine1.jpgThis holiday season I’ve been experiencing particularly strong feelings of gratitude when I reflect on the College of Adaptive Arts Mountain Movers Community. I am overwhelmed with gratitude in meeting and serving the most outstanding, courageous, and dynamic families of adults with special needs. They are my rock and constant source of inspiration, hope, determination and possibility.

I’m grateful to our Mountain Movers Board of Directors who tirelessly and relentlessly work behind the scenes to promote our College and ensure that it continues to grow and evolve thoughtfully, professionally, prudently, and compassionately.

I’m grateful to the community members who have come on our tours, played in our golf tournament, given countless donations of funds and time, and believed in and supported this model of educating adults with special needs to become successful contributing citizens.

I’m grateful to our CAA Superstaff and students, whose synergy and creativity provide the bedrock spirit of the College of Adaptive Arts. We have the most willing and earnest learners coming together to be taught by the best team of professional artists, dancers, filmmakers, leaders. It is awe-inspiring and joyful to experience a CAA class.

And finally, I’m grateful to two outstanding women who have fundamentally shaped my being and persona. My sister, Angel, who is a year younger than I and who has Down syndrome, has been my constant guiding light of love, compassion, and determination. I’m equally grateful to my business partner and soul sister, Pamela Lindsay, who inspires me each and everyday to think differently and rethink possibility while always taking time to stop and smell the roses on the way. She’s my true hero and inspiration.

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b2ap3_thumbnail_nclothier2.jpgAbout 2 years ago, my friend and CAA Board Member, Brian Appleton, asked me if I would be interested in maintaining the College of Adaptive Arts website.  Brian's son Alex is a student there.  After reviewing their website and seeing the wonderful work they do, I said yes.  I have met both Founders, DeAnna and Pamela and visited the school site in San Jose.  Pam and DeAnna both shared their reason for starting the school citing their personal experiences.  Their passion and determination were evident.

I haven't had the opportunity to come to any of their events, but by reading the stories and viewing the photographs, I can experience what this learning opportunity means to the students and their families.  The smiles and joy on their faces tell it all. 

I hope to continue to work with Pamela and DeAnna, providing support in the mission of the College of Adaptive Arts.  I know there are many adults with differing abilities that could benefit from the college experience, and this school will continue to bring them the joy and satisfaction of learning and performing.

Nancy Clothier, Webmaster

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