CAA #CardinalStrong

“What Will You Do With Your Building Permit?”

By Pamela Lindsay

I love this picture. It depicts everything that inspired this college. Our students are proving every day how they are capable of great imagination, incomparable growth and achievement of their deepest dreams.  This may look like a picture of a graduation. It is so much more.

This 10th Anniversary brings grateful reflection on the paths that put the pieces and all of us together. In 2009, I was breathing a sigh of relief after completing my master’s degree in the school of Radio, Television, Film and Theatre at San Jose State University. I had settled into a position there as an instructor and theatre director. The topic of my masters’ thesis focused on the arts, education, and social cognitive skill-building. The research had ignited a spark of understanding that for all of us, the key to future opportunities is one simple thing: understanding of our own needs and identification of options to meet them.  The options we identify and help others to understand often point to our personal giftings and, when we embrace them, our joys.

I continued ongoing research into curriculum models and instructional tools that might benefit the college students in my typical classrooms who happened to have hidden developmental and other learning disabilities. It was important to me that those college students understand that there are many approaches to learning, as there are to life. I experienced with them that in those moments when they perceived a door had slammed shut, we could shift their focus another direction down the less traveled (and usually much more interesting) path.

My road to Cardinal life also included work for almost a decade as a consultant to families of learners with differing abilities. I enjoyed the ongoing challenge of finding and delivering special curricula that would fit the continually evolving needs of young people with varied learning challenges. This included my own daughter, who happens to have Asperger’s syndrome.

Little did I know DeAnna and I were on intersecting journeys before we ever met. When we did, there was instant recognition of a kindred spirit. We have many lovely things in common, but what ignites our partnership in this CAA effort and as soulmates on this historic road we are all traveling upon was perplexity over the wonderful options for individuals with differing abilities that turn on a dime and slam doors with cut-off dates and “drop zones.” Who in the world came up with the plan to close doors on programs important for health and wellness, academic education, personal development and community contribution because of a birthday? Certainly not our brilliant Cardinal flyers! They are working hard and taking names!

They are overcomers. That’s why they inspire us every day. When these students make a decision to attend this college, it means they are making a decision to look for an open door. They are choosing to step through it and blaze that less-traveled path for others to follow. They are stepping up. They don’t ask for education, they expect it to happen. And we love those great expectations. As co-founder and Dean, my work in educational development continues toward programs and materials that meet these high expectations and evolving needs through work toward a Doctorate in an area of academics with many potential closed doors-leadership in higher education for students with developmental disabilities. No problem at all; our students just keep reminding me to look for the open ones.

So when they cross the stage at our CAA graduation ceremony, it is not just for a piece of paper. It is their building permit to take it all up a level, every time. It’s a symbol of dedication to and appreciation for the countless earned credits that set them apart as shareholders in their community, and as part of its solid foundation.

They aren’t hoping for opportunities, they are learning to create their own. That’s why it is such an overwhelming joy for De and I to be there on stage to hand them their next diploma.  And shake on the promise that they never have to leave because of a birthday. And to let them know how honored we at CAA are by the gift to serve as architects for their ground-breaking past and future achievements. They are #Cardinal Strong!!