An Ensemble of Love

I love our College of Adaptive Arts community with all of my heart and soul.  I love our Mountain Mover board members who pour their heart, soul, time, treasure and talents into growing this collegiate model strategically and mindfully. I love our CAA students who show us each day what it means to live in the moment and celebrate each small victory.  I love the co-founder, Dean of Instruction, and my authentic soul sister who challenges me daily to think differently and redefine possibility. I love our CAA parents who bring the students, ask hard questions, support this model in a myriad of small and grand ways, and never, ever give up on the abilities and potential of their adult children.

I love how each day the students return and bring their friends to learn from the most dedicated staff of teachers and leaders, many of whom have life paths for many reasons where they have also felt marginalized. Here at CAA they are our Leaders, and Professors, and Site Managers, and front-line Believers in the CAA college students and their boundless potential.

Each day you can hear booming laughter emanating from the classrooms. Each day you hear positive affirmations of support and encouragement and celebration of yet another skill achieved when it wasn’t the day before. Each day you sense the bar expectation raise ever so slightly in every class and every conversation. Each day you sense this mountain which as obstructed adults with special needs access to lifelong education is shifting just a little bit more.

I love how I have an expansive network of awesome folks who come together for the sake of their loved ones.  We are a community of individuals from all ethnicities, backgrounds, political positions, religious differences, and economic levels.  I truly believe one of the hardest jobs in the entire world is to be a careprovider for a loved one. It is tireless, anguishing, exhausting work.  This dedication to a loved one transcends all other societal-imposed definitions, and it’s so beautiful to watch the bonds emerge and strengthen when we all realize we are here to support each other, to support our loved ones, and to never give up on their abilities and potential.

We do not always see eye to eye; we do not always agree, but we figure out a way to work together and forge new and creative opportunities for the students to be able to showcase their authentic abilities. It feels so awesome and so right and so ripe for possibility. I encourage you to come in and experience this sense of joy each and every Friday during our weekly tour when school is in session. The students win over another heart/mind/soul each and every time they connect with the community at large. College of Adaptive Arts is truly an Ensemble of Love.

DeAnna Pursai, Co-Founder & Executive Director
College of Adaptive Arts

Honoring Kim Rains’ Legacy

Kim Rains was an exceptional human being.  Kim was kind, caring, funny, intelligent, passionate, visionary.  I was looking back this week on all of the videos she helped produce over the years for the college.  She did so very much for us to grow this collegiate model of education since the very beginning.  She was in almost all of our CreaTV PSAs, in our original marketing videos, she was CAA’s first valedictorian, she gave the student speech at our Giving Breakfast in May.  She was the interviewer for Ms. Wheelchair CA, Ms. Wheelchair America, and Richard Alexandre Rittelmann, a world-renowned European opera singer.  She would often contribute amazing ideas for new classes, new dance choreography, and more opportunities to showcase abilities in the community.  She was a true leader.

I would love to watch her at a site when a guest would walk through our doors.  More times than not, she would stop what she was doing, make a bee-line to the guest, one hand firmly thrust out for a handshake mid-stride while the other hand firmly on her trach as she marched across the floor to introduce herself and let the guest know that she was a student leader and ambassador to our college.  I would love to be on her heels as she often caught guests a bit off-guard with a follow-up that Kim is our very first valedictorian of our college.  I would love to watch the faces of each guest when they were trying to reconcile what they were seeing and hearing, and you for the overwhelming majority, they would break into a wide grin of sheer joy.

In one of our very first marketing videos, she stated that she wanted to start her own ministry.  Then, in the last video I took of her when she visited our art faire on November 4, she had said she was sorry for ministering, at which time I said you can minister to us forever.  She said, Ok, and proceeded to say this world is about Faith, Love, and Caring.

I believe that Kim was able to realize her life’s dream of starting her own ministry in the short time I think she knew she had to share with us on this earth.  I am not a very religious being by nature, but when I was in her presence, I very clearly felt a divine force that was simply incredible to experience.

I think at the very fundamental level that force is love, and it still strongly runs through me each time I remember Kim’s wide smile and liberal chuckle where she would crinkle up her eyes and heave her shoulders in laughter.  She would often tell me, DeAnna, you are the best teacher in the world.  And I sensed that she meant it with all of her being.  I felt so safe, so inspired, so loved.  When I was around Kim I felt like that was the best moment of my life – that nothing else mattered except for the human bond taking place at that very moment.  I believe I was feeling unconditional love and caring, and I believe that Kim knew exactly what she was doing to bring out the very best in each of us.  Kim most definitely achieved her goal of starting her own ministry.

As I look at the vibrant picture of Kim holding that fan, I hear Kim continue to minister to me every day.  Through this picture I hear the message, “You’re on the right track, De & Pam – don’t give up.”  It’s great that adults with disabilities have jobs in this world where they are holding brooms or cleaning cloths or pushing carts.  These are noble and essential tools.  However, our true contributions and gifts to the world are when you give an adult with a disability a microphone or a paintbrush or a prop such as a fan.” That’s when their true essence can shine through, and we are all better human beings through experiencing their joy and abilities.

And I think often to myself how hard it is to keep going sometimes with this college model, and how often I fail in my attempt to get others to understand.  But then I look at this photo and I hear her words, I feel her love, I sense her ministry, “You’re on the right track.  I got up everyday for 39 years when often the world was not on my side, and you can do it to.” And I thank Kim for sharing her vision with us.  And I reaffirm my pledge to her and to you that we will not give up showcasing the authentic abilities, gifts, and passions of adults of all abilities.  I love you, Kim Rains – you are my true hero forever and always.

-DeAnna Pursai

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!