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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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Reflections from Pam

When I reflect on the past several years, it seems unbelievable that our CAA family is experiencing the College of Adaptive Arts’ seventh year providing an innovative collegiate environment for lifelong adult education. We at CAA use the term “family” very purposefully, as it is everyone’s college. Students, families, teachers, staff, friends and supporters continue to build out this new platform spotlighting learning abilities that still-quite unbelievably-come as a surprise to many in our community.

As co-founders, DeAnna and I both firmly believe in CAA students’ passion to learn and in the lasting value of an educational path that has no boundaries. Though few would dispute the idea that education is a powerful tool for personal growth, no tier exists within diploma-based programs at mainstream colleges offering our differing learners similar academic goals as their peers. This drives us toward analyzing and dissolving related barriers. We have found that the biggest barriers exist within narrow perceptions of what a college is and how accessible it should be.

The idea of alternative, specialized adult learning strategies can sometimes be perceived as devaluing to the mainstream, traditional college experience. However, the traditional “brick and mortar” perception of learning is changing. No longer restricted to buildings and books, information now travels freely in many different ways through portals powered by technology and interpersonal connection. This is a good change for those who have traditionally been left out of the mix within typical college learning paths, and a golden key for our students with differing abilities.

CAA maintain a vision of a typical campus with buildings for our various departments, similar to traditional colleges. Such representation can be extremely equitable for our students. At the same time, CAA’s current pursuit of learning spaces deserving of our most treasured student body involves fewer and fewer walls and an increasingly broad net of support among respected industry professionals and environments. This exciting development is due to the wonderful fact that those who get our students are excited to get them going in areas of interest and passion, providing them with platforms for sharing their knowledge.

Your support is also changing perceptions daily. This includes perceptions of what it means to attend a college, earn credit, and pursue diplomas within an ongoing, adult learning journey. Will you help us spread the word to adults who can benefit from opportunities to learn and grow through creative approaches accessible to all? Simply share this wise message from our students: “Show your smarts. Learn the arts.”

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Season's Greetings from Founder Pam

Season’s Greetings!

One surprise has been our recording studio, built with love and generosity by the team at Barry Swenson Builders and filled with packages of equipment and instruments by a grant from the Silicon Valley Creative Guild. The dream of developing original and distributed music will soon be more than “visions of sugarplums.” Instead, it will be a reality in which the passion of students in CAA’s School of Music can be shared through an expanding and professionally recorded repertoire.

We are also celebrating the gift of ongoing connections to other college environments, including Santa Clara University’s SCAP program and Stanford University’s Department of Human Biology. Each year, I am pleased to participate at Stanford as a panel expert in a course on autism. I am thankful for the continued opportunity to join other professionals in our community in guiding the students of this course as they expose stereotypes and illuminate abilities of individuals with differing abilities. This course has become one of Stanford’s most popular, filling up just minutes after the opening of registration. Our students can look forward to their own chance to connect with them through participation in future studies. Watch for more information on when and where CAA students can join our Stanford friends and researchers in support of Nobel prize-winning efforts to understand how those with autism and other differing abilities think and learn. “Opening the shutters and throwing up the sash” on such knowledge would truly be a wonderful present indeed.

Our own little “sleigh and eight tiny reindeer” continues to be our CAA van and its V-8 motor, powering our touring ensembles across the state to entertain and excite. This year they have performed for schools, professional arts groups, amusement park crowds, and audiences at regional and state-wide events. We are all very thankful for our little green machine…but a new wheelchair-accessible charter bus remains very high on our wish list!

As the CAA Cardinals look forward to “settling down for a long winter’s nap” over the break, our professors are in their workshop creating new surprises for the Winter ’16 quarter. Here are a few hints: “”the three R’s,” “city leadership,” and “scholarly investigation.” You will be thrilled with what they are wrapping up for all to enjoy!!

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