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b2ap3_thumbnail_jonbeck.jpgby June Beck

Put on a musical style movie or a disney song and dance TV show, and our son, Jon, is in motion.  He loves the music, the dance and the sense of theater, but until CAA, this was a private connection for Jon mostly with his TV.

We feel that Jon who, has DS and is 40 years old, has a pretty remarkable life.  He finished his schooling with an independent living certificate from Gavilan College.  He has had a job at the local pharmacy since 1997, volunteers in his community, is well know around town, in his church, and lives independently from family in his own home.  What is not to like?  

There was a void in his life….in that there was not a place or a group of people that he could comfortably associate with and participate in life long learning. We longed for something that was actually structured to teach and build skills, not just entertain.  

This void was was filled by College of Adaptive Arts.  He now has a place to perform, recreate, connect socially with others and enjoy his love of music, theater and dance.  When the golf program was added, Jon was definitely “all in.”  Instead of an occasional game and the six weeks per year of Special Olympic golf, Jon has opportunity to keep his golf going much of the year.

College of Adaptive Arts has been a wonderful outlet for Jon, giving him opportunity to develop skills, maintain friendships, and gives him a creative outlet for all that energy previously directed at his TV.  When Angels on Stage was formed, we were delighted to hear about it, but sad that Jon was already too old to participate.  

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By Mary Pizzo

b2ap3_thumbnail_jeana.jpgA traditional collegiate experience would not be possible for my daughter. Her special needs – both physical and intellectual, cannot be satisfied in large groups, auditorium sized lecture halls and one-to-many teacher/student ratio. In a traditional college setting, she would be isolated due to limited social skills, occasional seizures and intellectual delay.

CAA bridges her desire to develop artistically and personally. It provides an academic structure through wide range of art courses. The collaboration between students on projects fosters a community of friendship, respect and shared success.

CAA’s mission of providing a collegiate experience which develops the student physically, emotionally and intellectually is just right for my daughter. I encourage others to contact CAA to arrange for a visit and see for themselves their creative student body and faculty.

Mary Pizzo

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My voyage to the land of disability began three weeks before my 40th birthday with an eye infection. From there I was catapulted into a world of doctors, appointments, pills, drops, and injections. I was not consulted and I was not given time to reflect and feel. It was almost a blessing that my husband is a scientist. Facts are facts, objective and unemotional, they just are. Four years later I was having surgery to remove a tumor. Some of my issues came to an end, some quieted down a bit, and brand new ones appeared.Pam Lindsay, Lex Cooke from StackMap and Suzanne

My eyesight didn't escape or get a reprieve. Because of the infection, disease, medication, and laser treatments, I was left with no peripheral vision, spotty direct vision, and some dead photoreceptors.

I couldn't see to read or watch TV. I stopped cooking (I couldn't see the cooking shows that I enjoyed watching), I stopped crocheting. My eye doctors didn't say or do much except to caution me against getting new eyeglasses because the edema was changing and to make another appointment in a few weeks. When I finally broke down (tears and all) and told my doctor that I stopped reading, she sent me to an optometrist who sent me to a low vision specialist. I was then declared legally blind by the state of California. I even got a certificate, suitable for framing. The DMV took my license. The Department of Rehabilitation sent a gentleman to our apartment who got me signed up for cane training. Who knew that you needed a class to learn how to operate a cane?

As all of this was happening, I was laid off from work (unrelated) and my feet, which had fractured many times, were declared healed but I had to wear prescription shoes, which are as stylish as they sound.

The day came for cane training and after we figured out which size cane was good for me, I took off running with the trainer trailing behind. I don't know how I came to this epiphany, but I decided that just because I needed a cane, doesn't mean that I was no longer a citizen of society. Just because I couldn't see didn't make me invisible. But people do have their reactions.

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Welcome parents and graduates. All the graduates have been working very hard to get to this point. Graduation for many of my classmates has been just a dream. This event today shows everyone here that it is possible. There are many people we need to thank. First thanks go to DeAnna and Pam for founding CAA. We also need to acknowledge our parents. If not for our parents, we would not know anything about College of Adaptive Arts. Our Parents help us navigate the course catalog and decide where to use our talents. Our Parents help get to classes and help us achieve our dreams. Next, we need to thank our talented Professors who nurture our minds. They refresh our talents. They are not just teachers they are our coaches, cheering us on in each class and helping us reach b2ap3_thumbnail_aine3.jpgour dreams. Finally we need to thank our classmates because they help get over our troubles.

Graduation for many of us is the next step on the yellow brick road to our future. On this path, we have dealt with many wicked witches. The wicked witches in our lives were the people who said we could not do this. We heard so much that we began to believe it. CAA is the water that melts the witch. In addition, Graduation becomes a reachable thing. Graduab2ap3_thumbnail_aine2.jpgtion is no longer a dream. Congrats, graduates, graduation and our futures are no longer somewhere over the rainbow.

As the great, Rosa Parks said, “Each person must live their life as a model for others.” Graduates we need to remember this quote because each of us lives our lives as an example. We have overcome the wicked witch of negativity. We are role models and heroes to others. Graduation is possible, reaching your goals are possible and just like Rosa believed that riding in the front seat of the bus was for all. Therefore, we believe that education is accessible to everyone. We are not people defined by our disabilities but our abilities. Our abilities make us unique and stronger.

Today we say thank you for joining on this journey along the yellow brick road to our future. As Dorothy said, “There’s no place like home”. CAA is home for so many of us and we are grateful that you have taken time to join us on this journey.

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We are not just Board Members; we are Mountain Movers

I will never forget the moment I first heard about CAA.  Jeremy, a participant in my FITBuddies group at FIT in Los Altos, came running in one afternoon shouting, “Jen, I am going to college!!”  I returned his excitement and then asked him where. He responded, “Far, far away.”  Needless to say, I was extremely happy to learn that “far, far away” meana1sx2_Thumbnail1_jenp.jpgt San Jose.  Shortly thereafter, Jeremy’s dad. Bill, introduced me to DeAnna Pursai, and the relationship quickly developed. A few months later, I was officially a Mountain Mover.

In the early days of CAA, DeAnna decided that she did not want to call us “Board Members” and that “Mountain Movers” more accurately described the goal: to move mountains for adults with disabilities.  My first reaction was that it was a fun, cute way to describe the Board and those who were involved in CAA.  Every time something exciting happened—a new grant awarded, new students, new community partnerships and events—an e-mail is sent with a title such as, “the mountain just moved” or “that mountain just creaked.”  After spending a little time at CAA, one quickly realizes that Mountain Movers is much more than a creative way of referring to CAA’s board.

Whether you are a board member, professor, staff, student, parent, volunteer or donor, you are a Mountain Mover.  This term does not identify one particular role; it identifies an entire community.  The Board alone can’t move the mountain; neither can ab2ap3_thumbnail_caaboard2015.jpg student nor professor  nor staff member nor volunteer. It takes an entire Mountain Moving community and that is exactly what DeAnna and Pamela have built.

The term Mountain Mover has also created an equitable relationship among all who are involved with CAA.  As CAA’s Board Chair, my role is not more important than that of a staff member or a volunteer because we are all on this mountain together with a firm understanding that it only moves when we work together.

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