Kim’s Story – CAA’s Inaugural Valedictorian of 2013

CAA Kim’s Story

In early September 2009 my daughter Kimberly and I heard about a new performing arts college & were told by a friend that the directors were beginning to hold interviews at a dance studio, in a mall, for folks interested in this newly formed college. I thought that was very interesting. My daughter, Kim, was 31 years old at that time. She had Down Syndrome and a Tracheostomy tube for breathing. My expectations were both high and low regarding this college. Kim was very high functioning…. She had many years of dance training but her trach?????

Her trach held her back from many opportunities, as she needed me or her Dad or a respite care nurse, to be with her at all times, to monitor her breathing. What did we really have to lose by going for an interview, I thought, plus Kim couldn’t wait to see what this college was all about! If it included dance & performing, she was “all in 100%”.

As we approached the dance studio, I could see two women sitting there waiting for us! I was nervous but Kim, being Kim, couldn’t wait for the interview to start!

I realized right away that these two women, DeAnna Pursai & Pam Lindsey, were the most loving two women (actually angels) that I could ever want to meet. True blessings.

We talked about Kim and when I started to talk about her tracheostomy…. DeAnna piped up and said… “TRAIN US!!!”. Tears still come to my eyes as I recall how sweet & accepting they were of Kim. Kim was enrolled in THE COLLEGE OF ADAPTIVE ARTS that very day!

Kim went on to perform not only dance (jazz, ballet & Latizmo), but she had opportunities to speak about this wonderful college! She also took part in theater performances and went to PayPal with her professor to learn more about public speaking. Eventually, she was chosen to be the Dance Department’s first student choreographer. Our biggest thrill of all was her becoming CAA’s first ever Valedictorian for the class of 2013! There were many graduating students in May 2013.

Students earned credits for classes they took. Kim earned many credits in her first few years at CAA. Any opportunity to be on stage, give a speech or announce a graduating student’s name made Kim’s day.

Our daughter Kim passed away on December 17, 2017 from a heart attack & cancer. The last two years of her life were spent mostly in the hospital and at home. Guess what??? She was able to Skype in to a class while at home or in her hospital room and take part in her CAA classes. She could see her fellow students & her boyfriend Robert using her iPad & they could see her! If there was a dance class, she could dance with her arms & her big smile. She felt good about herself, & in turn, she kept her will to live despite how fragile she was in those two years.

Kim would want the world to know that CAA is the greatest place in the world to mature, to grow in learning & public speaking and performing. DeAnna Pursai and Dr. Pam Lindsey are still the same wonderful, caring supportive angels they were the day we first met them.

Kim loved CAA. And so do we (her parents).

Submitted by: Candy Rains. 8/19/2019. Kim’s Mom.

A Breath of Fresh Air by Professor Sharon Lea

College of Adaptive Arts is a breath of fresh air for so many.

When you walk through the doors of this amazing college you feel invigorated and relaxed all at the same time. The joy is palpable as students want to talk about their life as a college student.  They are a CAA Cardinal and they beam with pride.

CAA is not only a place of learning – it is a place of healing for students and staff alike.

When I first came to CAA as a volunteer, life had handed me back-to-back blows knocking the wind out of me.  I couldn’t breathe at all.  I wanted to help others in some way to get myself back out into the world again and yet, I needed so much help myself.

In April 2012 I was diagnosed with Stage 2 breast cancer. After five weeks of radiation treatment and subsequent surgeries, I was free and clear. My husband and I were so very thankful.  Gene testing showed I was at a low risk of reoccurrence.  The future was bright and we were so blessed to know we had gotten through such a tough time, together.

My Scott, saw me through it all.  But life knocked the wind out of us again.

In October, 2013, Scott was diagnosed with a rare, aggressive cancer.  He fought a brave fight, but within 9 months, Scott was gone.  The man who had helped me through my own cancer journey, was going to be my guardian angel now.

I was left reeling and wondering how two big tragedies could hit one right after another. I was in shock and I was numb.  Even though I was out and about, I couldn’t breathe.

Through a friend, I found CAA and started volunteering.  My first day, I walked into Pioneer High School where students were rehearsing Greasy Hairspray, one of CAAs many productions and I felt the fresh air as it entered my lungs. Something happened to me.

For the first time in a long time, I felt that I could breathe again and maybe in some ways for the first time. I too have a learning disability, even though I have an English degree and years of professional work experience under my belt.

The beautiful faces of our students, their positive energy and desire to learn made me get out of myself.  I was able to see the life I still had and the future that was mine. Everyone I met was overcoming something and growing stronger. I knew that I could too.

I still missed my husband dearly, but I knew that he would want me to be happy. I wanted to be happy and I knew happiness is a choice. Professor Jay Torres of Latizmo Hip Hop Productions tells her students to make a choice, take a chance and make a change.

CAA is an amazing college and our students show me every day that we are all on a glorious journey to be the best version of ourselves…which is enough already!