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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 |

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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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