College of Adaptive Arts Salutes Spanish55

We are so grateful to everyone in the community who is rallying behind the growing concept that adults with differing abilities want to and can continue to learn past the age of 22, even when it is apparent that they will not be able to access an accredited Associate’s degree on a community college campus.

One such community partner which has been such a tremendous asset and boon to College of adaptive Arts has been Spanish55 out of the binational region of San Diego and Tijuana. The young entrepreneur co-founders, Alvaro Sanchez Diaz & Abraham Arechiga, reached out to DeAnna about 3 years ago to share their innovative, engaging, and affordable model for learning Spanish through lessons over Skype.  The service they offer was created with the mission of becoming the best  option for busy professionals like DeAnna; in her case, she decided to work with her online Spanish tutor twice a week around her schedule.

The lessons were cumulative and articulated, but also provided lots of flexibility to focus on areas of learning most meaningful for her in her profession.  Through these lessons, DeAnna’s confidence with the Spanish language has simply soared.  She was given a safe and supportive environment to practice, make many mistakes 😊, take risks, and to ask real-time questions with a native Spanish speaker.  DeAnna was able to explore the Spanish language through methods which worked best for her, including poetry, role-playing, & canciones (songs) 😊.

College of Adaptive Arts has become a richer and more robust organization thanks to the generous support of the Spanish55 leadership. The co-founders made the trek to San Jose a few years back to show their solidarity and support at CAA’s Leadership Awards luncheon.  DeAnna and board member Toni Cook had an opportunity to travel to Mexico with a Rotary group to practice her Spanish, and the Spanish55 team arranged a speaking engagement (in Spanish!) at a local secondary school about College of Adaptive Arts.  Through their gracious support, CAA has made friends with a wonderful charity out of Tijuana supporting children with special needs, Amorh, in which they collaboratively worked together on a creative art project involving pink boots and awesome hand-made logos.

CAA is now offering Spanish as one of its 35 class offerings each week in its School of Communications.  The Spanish class has had the opportunity to have Spanish55 tutors call into class to allow our College students to learn and ask questions.  From these rich experiences, Spanish thrives at College of Adaptive Arts.  Many CAA families speak Spanish, and relationships have been strengthened and fortified being able to converse with someone in their native language.  DeAnna feels confident enough now with her Spanish to answer telephone calls in Spanish, to give tours of the College in Spanish (certainly not fluent yet), and to find and recruit new families of adults with special needs who may have felt isolated by only being able to converse in Spanish.  Just this week DeAnna found a new community business leader who wants to do a card-making workshop due to her striking up a conversation with him in Spanish.

College of Adaptive Arts is forever grateful to the outstanding services of this wonderful collaborator. CAA’s long-term vision is to make this lifelong educational model as robust in the education world as Special Olympics is in the athletics world.  We foresee Spanish55 becoming just as robust and widespread, because this avenue for learning Spanish is accessible, affordable, innovative, super-fun, and rich and lasting friendships await when we all focus on helping, supporting, encouraging, and learning from one another.

Perspectives from a CAA Student

Let me tell you as a student that College of Adaptive Arts (CAA) has something for everyone.   I may not have taken every class that CAA has to offer but we are so much more than a dance floor.    There’s many classes besides Dance classes such as Poetry, Reading Partners and classes that teach you to play the guitar.

As a student CAA keeps me very busy besides my going to and from classes I was in the spring play production for CAA of Bye Bye Birdie.    Now that Bye Bye Birdie is done and over with I have to go to the cast party.

We don’t get homework from CAA but we do need to memorize and understand what we learn in our classes.   The old adage practice makes perfect is what our school is about the more you practice what we teach the further you’ll go.

However, we do not have finals so if you know someone who’s never liked finals that would like to learn to dance, sing or act, please contact the College.  Our phone number is 408-538-3809.

To Be a Mountain Mover

A Mountain Mover
By Sharon Lea

I want to be a mountain mover
mountains hold people back
create walls of sadness
that hide so much truth and beauty

I want to push and kick away boulders
so, beautiful ballerinas can twirl
with grace and dignity
wings without fear

I want to be a mountain mover
crushing boulders blocking the path
that keep spirits from being free

I want to bring a kaleidoscope of hope
to budding young artists
who draw of pretty cats and fishes
rainbows and raindrops
giving voice to their hearts
wings without fear

I want to be a mountain mover
building bridges to eliminate the barriers
that keep people from their potential
to be leaders in our communities
who have so much to say and do
if only given the chance
to dunk basketballs like a pro
or help a teammate to walk
wings without fear

I want to be a mountain mover
mountains hold people back
in shyness and uncertainty
giving strength and courage
to beautiful hearts and awesome minds
who speak with confidence
raising their voices with pride
sharing love and kindness
wings without fear

The Ripple Effect

When I’m out in the community and I tell people we run a College of the Arts for adults with special needs, a common response that I get is, “So you are training them for a vocation in the arts?” Certainly a valid question, and I find it an interesting challenge to convey the message that we are truly about learning for the sake of learning. Lifelong education. Exploring and furthering your skills and interests with other like-minded peers who have similar interests.

I have a sister with a disability, and it was truly interesting to watch enter into the world of adulthood. When I believe she was in that post-secondary time right after high school, she had a job coach for the summer, and she was so very happy cleaning the desks of the local high schools to get ready for the next year. Her coach was with her, and she seemed to be having a blast. I was so happy for her to have an engaged experience and to be helping in the community.

I soon learned that the job coach was cut due to budget cuts. I moved away to attend my own college, and I sensed the distress and despair of becoming an adult without the needed supports to continue to be a viable, happy, and productive citizen. It’s been highly distressing to observe as a sister.

Fast forward 20 years and myself and my business partner, Pamela Lindsay, have founded an Innovative College of the Arts for Students with Disabilities. It’s amazing; joyful; refreshing. I simply and truly love it. College of Adaptive Arts has 8 Schools of Instruction in the Arts, Health & Wellness. Adults simply sign up for the classes that they are interested in taking. Each class is one hour long. Learn, Create, Rinse, and Repeat.

I often revisit the word training in my mind. I’ve seen adults with disabilities trained to pick up trash, clean tables, shred papers. From my perspective, it seems that ‘typical folks’ on a whole can do these jobs better than a person with a disability. However, when you give a person with a disability a microphone and a stage, they have the ability to transform the audience’s experience in a way that I have rarely witnessed with ‘typical’ performers. People often have told me that they ‘feel more alive’ after watching a College of Adaptive Arts performing troupe.

I sincerely believe that we are better using all human resources when we unleash authentic abilities in the arts vs. training them to fulfill menial jobs. A typical person experiences an adult with a disability on stage singing their heart out, and their world that day has been transformed.

A ripple from experiencing the artistic contributions of a performer with a disability may lead to more far-reaching ramifications. A person goes home and hugs their family. They put down their technologies and authentically listen. They get a new sense of hope and inspiration. They have a renewed sense of awareness, perspective, gratitude, mindset. The sky is truly the limit.

I invite you to come and visit the College of Adaptive Arts on a Friday tour and feel the positive energy for yourself. It’s infectious; joyful; electrifying. It’s much easier to get it than having me politely explain that we are not about training; we are about empowering our student body to creatively transform perception. And they are so doing that each time they connect with the community – it is truly powerful.

Celebrate Differences

Celebrate Differences by Sharon Lea, CAA Professor

Just imagine a world where everyone is held up high towards the sun and given all the opportunities to be the best they can be. Just imagine a world where everyone is celebrated for who they are and given every advantage to live a rich, fulfilling life. Imagine a world where differences are celebrated with excitement and wonder. Everyday CAA gives this warmth of the sun to adult students with differing abilities, through a liberal arts education and exciting opportunities they might not have had in the past.

My first experience with CAA came when I walked into rehearsal at Pioneer High School for the production of Greasy Hairspray. CAA puts on yearly productions, giving students opportunities to perform in the community and in turn, gives the community opportunities to see our students work together as a team and thrive in the spotlight.

I had not worked with this population before and I must admit I wasn’t sure exactly what would be expected of me. As soon as I walked in the door, I knew I found a unique and special place. Adult students were on stage, of all abilities. Excitement was in the air. Bright yellow Greasy Hairspray tee shirts were being sorted by size for each student. Singing and dancing filled the space. It was not a place of apprehension, but a place filled with support and love.

It was a place where there were no limits and each student had a gift that simply needed sunshine and a little time. It was unlike anything I had ever experienced and I knew I wanted to help in whatever way possible. Now as a staff member, I am wholly committed to doing all I can to promote and support CAA, an amazing organization.

As I watch students blossom, become more confident, take risks and continually strive to learn about the world and themselves, I celebrate differences more than ever. I celebrate CAA with all my heart and I am excited to watch CAA touch more and more students, giving hope through higher-education.

Jen Pleimann Mulry, CAA Mountain Mover, 2010 – 2017

It is with many mixed emotions that I finish up my time on CAA’s board as well as my role as board chair. I am proud to end my term (plus some) with a strong board of ten mighty members who I know will continue plowing through the mountain; with DeAnna and Pam energetically paving the path as they strive to get our students on a college campus; with a staff who is committed to teaching without limits; and with a growing student population who continue to surpass everyone’s expectations and continue to be our best advocates for their own future.

There is so much energy, so much potential and in my opinion so many amazing things that are “about to happen” at CAA but as we look ahead to each new goal, it often feels like the mountain just got bigger. We continue to expect more (as we should); Parents continue to demand more (as you should); and the Board continues to govern and steer more and more growth (as they should). But as we continue to look to the future, it is just as important to understand just how far we have come and with that I would like to share my top five highlights from my time thus far:

2009 – The moment I first heard about CAA when Jeremy Teter ran into my FITBuddies class and announced with so much pride “I’m going to college Jen!!” There were 9 students attending CAA classes and today there are 90+.

2011 – I taught my first skype nutrition class and will never forget Angel, DeAnna’s sister joining us from Indiana, ”Oh miss Jen you are the highlight of my week,” No Angel, you are the highlight of mine. Today our distance learning infrastructure is growing tremendously with the help of Cisco’s grant enabling students to join classes from anywhere.

2013 – I was nominated as Board Chair with an operating budget of $50k…and we thought that was a huge step forward. This year we approved a budget of $750k.

2014 – We were “homeless” and running classes out of three different locations until one of our students marched into the Swenson’s team office and told them we needed a home. I have no doubt that one of our students will march onto a college campus and demand that they give CAA space to run classes.

2015 – DeAnna started working a second job and Pam continued towards her PHD. How these two women continued to run the college on little to no salary while maintaining additional jobs and commitments was and continues to be humbling. Today these two continue to run the college on a very base salary with so much love, commitment and dedication. To say they are awe-inspiring does little justice.

I am forever grateful for the time I was able to serve CAA and this is not the end but only the beginning of ways in which I will be involved. I can not thank De, Pam, all the professors and fellow board members enough for your energy and commitment to CAA. I continue to be truly humbled by all of you. And to the students, I thank you for teaching me WAY more than I could ever teach you.

Jen Pleimann Mulry, CAA Mountain Mover, 2010 – 2017; Board Chair, 2013 – 2017

It’s Your Time to Shine

by Sharon Lea, CAA Professor

It’s your time to shine
society has come a long way
sometimes you have been overlooked
some would simply turn away

People would lose interest
if speech was slow or slurred
instead of taking a few minutes of time
everyone wants to be heard

They couldn’t take a moment
to see inside your beautiful mind
maybe not the quickest one
but ideas, opinions of every kind

People often averted their eyes
So afraid of what they didn’t understand
if they only asked, you would tell them
simply ask and take my hand

They would see a wheelchair
or the tremor in both of your hands
thinking your mind wasn’t capable
to learn about geography or foreign lands

It’s your time to shine
to experience all of what life can be
society has come a long way
for everyone to be happy and free!