Today is love day and as the title of this blog suggests, there are potentially a billion things in my life that I love but for the purpose of this particular post, I would like to focus on one: The College of Adaptive Arts.
I will never forget the day one of my FITBuddies’ participants, Jeremy, came to class exclaiming “Jen, I’m going to college!!!” It was 2009 and the College of Adaptive Arts was just opening their doors to adults with disabilities.
It wasn’t until a year or two later that DeAnna Pursai, one of the founders, and I finally connected (thanks to Jeremy’s dad). I immediately fell in love with their mission, vision and beliefs. I have been on the board since 2011, am now co-chair of the board and it is hard to put into words the progress we have seen in the last three years.
I am not talking about the kind of progress that you’re going to find in our financials.
I am talking about the kind of progress seen and felt when you step foot into a classroom or attend CAA’s graduation and see the proud faces of the students.
I am talking about the kind of progress where a student’s abilities are uncovered and he then lands a job as an assistant soccer coach.
It is the kind of progress that every parent hopes for their child to and it is highlighted in a letter from a CAA parent below…
To whom it may concern:
My daughter Àine is 21 and began attending the College of Adaptive Arts (CAA) in September 2013. When she was eight, she was diagnosed with a non-verbal learning disability and, for the first time in her life, she has a place to go where she feels at home, a place in which she belongs. At the CAA, she is taking classes every day, building upon her existing skills and developing new ones, and making good friends. She is more confident and self-aware, and learning how to not just have friends, but also how to be a friend in a supportive and nurturing environment.
Àine has always enjoyed anything to do with performing arts, singing, dancing, writing, art, etc. but, because of her disabilities was never encouraged or given the opportunity to shine because, in the words of one elementary teacher, “I can’t trust her to deliver the goods in a performance setting.” As a result, she tended to stay in the background and assumed she was never good enough or talented enough. At CAA, she gets the opportunity to showcase her abilities and work with others to create something together, whether it’s a dance routine or a choir performance. This quarter she is stepping outside her own comfort zone and taking classes in subjects she would have never have had the courage to consider before.
In many ways, Àine is high functioning and very much a people person but she had very few friends in school and spent her time on the outside looking in. At CAA, she is meeting people with the various disabilities who now have the opportunity to discover talents they never knew they had and, most importantly, to excel at their own pace. They are very proud of CAA and wear the college sweatshirt with pride. They are supportive of one another and cheer each other on with enthusiasm and sincerity.
My daughter was diagnosed with cancer (not related to her disability) when she was 16. After many surgeries and treatments, she is on a second clinical trial and her disease is currently stable. At CAA, she is spending time with other young adults who are also dealing with serious medical conditions and she realizes that she isn’t along in her fears but now, instead of worrying about the future, she is talking as if she has one while, at the same time, fully living her life in the present.
Àine looks forward so much to going to school and is filled with so much enthusiasm for her classes and teachers that, as her mother, I feel as if a weight has been lifted from me over the past few months. I don’t delude myself about her health but, for the first time, thanks to the College of Adaptive Arts, I have hope that she will live to the fullest whatever life she has been granted.
The College of Adaptive Arts is still a young, scrappy non-profit whose founders define love and passion. If you need more proof, go check out CAA’s facebook page and take a look at all of the smiling students who are turning into confident adults showcasing their abilities.
I am extremely thankful to be a part of CAA and am very excited for what lies ahead for our current students and all our potential students.
And to whom it may concern: If on this Valentine’s day, you are looking for a new organization to LOVE, choose the College of Adaptive Arts and help us continue to move that mountain for adults with special abilities.
How you can help: