The Mountain is Moving at College of Adaptive Arts

This has been such a transformative and pivotal time at College of Adaptive Arts. We recently created a new organizational chart from the ground up to aspire to achieve 2 million Sustainable/Operational budget & then future-goal-setting of that next expanded structure to support a $5 million sustainable/replicable operational budget. We were able to double our small and mighty management team from a founding team of 2 to the Fierce Four who are working meticulously behind the scenes to bring this innovative lifelong collegiate model to full fruition.

The CAA Mountain Movers board recently launched a ReGroup & Grow campaign to get CAA staff input to help us lay a solid foundation. We are building a robust pipeline of how to expand our onboarding process to bring to the right people who can teach more classes of interest and will maintain the highest expectations for our adult college students who have so much intellect, critical inquiry, & contributions for our community.

CAA has now reached out and has received full or courtesy vendorization in 7 of the 21 Regional Centers around the state of CA. Our goal is to outreach to the rest and to have those Regional Centers help us reach more eager adults out there who have historically not had access to college education. The Mountain Movers board has established Task Forces on Accessibility, Community College Partnerships, Grants & Underwritings, Marketing, and new draft legislation around ensuring an online learning option is here to stay & potential new codes supporting lifelong education for adults with intellectual differences.

We are up to 171+ adult lifelong learners at our first CAA Swenson West Valley College flagship site and in our online learning community. We don’t plan to stop until we reach every adult out there around the world who has been shut out of a traditional .edu collegiate experience. The path forward is through Inclusive Collegiate Partnerships fostering mutually beneficial programs and opportunities that will benefit both programs as well as the community at large. It is possible and the future looks a bit brighter each and every day. We are deeply grateful for the ever-expanding community who is jumping in to help Move this Mountain for these precious and eager adult lifelong learners. It feels amazing, and on behalf of the entire College of Adaptive Arts Mountain Movers Learning Family- we thank you and ask you to join on this epic journey.

Dr. Pamela Lindsay: Univ of Phoenix Blog

College of Adaptive Arts proudly shares University of Phoenix’s latest Blog Post on Dr. Pamela Lindsay, Ed.D/CI, Co-Founder & Dean of Instruction:

Alum launches College of Adaptive Arts to provide equitable education experience for adults with special needs

Caregiver holding a senior woman's hands

A George Bernard Shaw quote was a catalyst to something life-changing for Dr. Pamela Lindsay. It reads, “Life isn’t about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself.” She includes it in her email signature as a reminder of the important work she is doing to educate adults with special needs.

In 2009, she helped launch the nonprofit College of the Adaptive Arts (CAA) in San Jose[1] to provide a college option for adults with disabling conditions who have aged out of traditional educational support.

Today, CAA has more than 100 students aged 18 and up taking more than 40 course offerings each quarter among nine schools of instruction.[2] CAA degrees are nontransferable and do not prepare students for job placement or a vocation. Instead, the curriculum is about feeding their curiosity and providing each individual with creative ways to participate individually, in groups and as leaders to show mastery of a concept.

Dr. Lindsay believes everyone deserves an education and CAA was designed to give those without traditional pathways access to a college experience.

“Our students have a hunger for learning, and they want to keep learning more. So, we give them that platform to explore what is interesting to them,” Said Dr. Lindsay, who earned a doctorate in curriculum and instruction, leadership in special education at UOPX. “For our students, we must engage them to lock what they are learning into their memory. It’s the same key cognitive development concepts needed in all areas of life.”

The idea for CAA was set in motion over a decade ago, when Dr. Lindsay and co-founder DeAnna Pursai, participated in a theater and choir fundraiser for students with disabilities. Many of the students who performed that night were “aging out” of the supportive programs, as state-sponsored support for children with special needs lasts through age 22. After that, educational opportunities are limited to those who can meet a college’s admissions standards without modification.

Dr. Lindsay and Pursai reached out to families to see if they might have adults with disabilities interested in classes in the arts. At first, a handful of special needs students interested in the arts joined music classes hosted in Dr. Lindsay’s home. From there, classes grew into a space for adults with disabilities to learn to live a full and empowered life as contributing members of the community through an arts-focused education.

They found they had the support and a solid base of students and families interested in participating. They needed a plan to turn their classes into a college.

Despite both having a passion for special education, the duo decided to take a divide-and-conquer approach to build CAA.[3][4] Pursai took on the role of executive director and pursued training to learn more about finance, business building and navigating funding sources. As dean of instruction for the College, Dr. Lindsay searched for a doctoral program to create the academic infrastructure for CAA.

She quickly learned that developing a curriculum that worked for these students would be difficult. She believed that it couldn’t be modeled after existing curriculum. She felt that it needed to be built from the ground up and focused on leadership and applied learning. Finding the right terminal degree to meet her needs was a challenge.

She discovered University of Phoenix’s doctoral program, with an educational framework built around the Scholar, Practitioner, Leader (SPL) model. The model focuses on lifelong-learning, leadership and positively impacting communities and workplaces.[1]

Through each course of her doctorate, Dr. Lindsay created materials and brought to life the vision she had for CAA’s curriculum. The result was ARTS, a curriculum model that builds on four key cognitive-developmental concepts, modeled after SPL. ARTS stands for: Accessing concepts, Responding to concepts, Transferring to independent understanding, and Sharing through leadership.

The University’s SPL model is designed to allow doctoral candidates to connect theory, learning and practice within an individual’s field so that thought leaders become producers of change.[2] Dr. Lindsay incorporated this into her curriculum focused on leadership and application. Programs are concentrated on the arts and each student’s learning is based on mastery of concepts and sharing it as a leader.

Pursai said she feels blessed to have Pam at the helm of curriculum and instruction for CAA.

“Pam is a true pioneer in her field. She established a curricular model and helped establish new procedures and processes to enable workflow to be streamlined, professional and easy to access,” she said. “Pam is so steadfastly committed to giving adults with intellectual disabilities a safe and engaging educational space to continue learning, growing and becoming the best versions of themselves.”

At CAA, meaningful participation in a course and demonstrating growth based on the ARTS model earns them credit. Students have the opportunity to earn a non-transferrable undergraduate degree when they complete 60 credits and move on to a 120-credit non-transferrable graduate degree and a 240-credit non-transferrable post-graduate degree.[3]

Dr. Lindsay is excited about what the future holds for CAA and its students. In addition to embracing the George Bernard Shaw quote, she and Pursai also march forward with the mantra “once a learner, always a learner,” and continue to seek out connections and networks of opportunity to grow the college.

“We serve one of the few groups not able to access education in an equitable way,” she said. “And we are finding more ways to do that.”





How Reading and Writing Classes Impact our CAA College Students by School of Communications Director, Danielle Weaver

Reading and Writing classes at CAA are always some of the most engaging, thought-provoking and popular classes at CAA. Currently, CAA offers 2 classes that focus on reading, 2 grad classes and finally 1 class that focuses on reading and writing.  They are very popular and well attended.

As I was thinking of the Theme for our Communications Showcase in February this word struck me. Metamorphosis.  Which is often what I see when our students attend communication classes.  Especially in reading and writing.

The definition of metamorphosis is as followed: a change of the form or nature of a thing or person into a completely different one, by natural or supernatural means.

Imagine the first day of class an student who maybe like books or reading but is shy and doesn’t want to participate in the reading aloud portion of the class, however, they sit and listen. Listen to the discussions of themes, words, characters and more importantly be present in class. They sit and listen as others read and listen as their classmates share what they think about the book or novel we are reading as a class. Then at the end of the quarter, the shy student’s hand goes up and they want to read. Turns out they can read very well but are nervous to share their voice.

This is what metamorphosis means. Giving them the opportunity to learn about themes, read books that were never considered, learn about characters and how they impact our world, allow them to read. But most importantly gives them the chance to try. To break out of their worldview and examine a new worldview.

I often hear from parents that their special individual likes books and movies. But doesn’t read. I often think to myself, have they been able to try? Reading and Writing classes allow them to try.  And often with just the chance to try. Our students succeed and come back to and take reading and writing classes over and over again.

Danielle Weaver, Director & Professor, School of Communications
College of Adaptive Arts

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

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