college officials and senator
SENATOR VISIT State Senator Dave Cortese toured the College of Adaptive Arts campus in Saratoga in 2022. The college is celebrating its 15th anniversary this year. (File Photo)

When College of Adaptive Arts first opened its doors in 2009, it was just one class of 12 adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities looking for an outlet to express themselves. 

Fifteen years later, the school has exploded into a hub for adults of all abilities and serves hundreds of students looking to gain an education, socialize and experience college in a way they never have before. 

College of Adaptive Arts, a nonprofit based in Saratoga, is the first of its kind to offer a special education model for adults which is centered on lifelong learning. 

Adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD) are typically aged out of traditional post-secondary education once they turn 21 or 22, leaving very little options other than vocational programs. 

“We recognize adults with IDD require their own unique instructional approaches and ongoing learning journeys without imposed time or age limits,” said Pamela Lindsay, College of Adaptive Arts co-founder and director of research. “Our programs allow students to joyfully and successfully move at their own pace toward goals and privately credited diplomas within inclusive classrooms of all learning levels and styles.” 

The school has hired 9 associate professors, 1 musical accompanist, 2 apprentices and 3 interns from its student body

This year, the school is celebrating its 15-year anniversary with special events, student spotlights and a fundraising campaign designed to obtain new recurring donors, which is a popular way for charities to maximize their donations throughout the year. 

“CAA is truly grateful to the ever-growing community of donors, local businesses, foundations and county and state agencies for their steadfast support of this innovative model engaging adults with IDD in lifelong education and workforce development,” said DeAnna Pursai, College of Adaptive Arts co-founder and executive director. “Our vision is to show how this expanded collegiate model can be positioned on every campus of higher learning around the world.” 

The school boasts 10 different schools of instruction offering 75 classes, including topics such as U.S. History, Spanish 101, Sign Language, Concert Choir, Speaking with Confidence and Digital Arts. 

Recently, College of Adaptive Arts introduced a new Apprenticeship and Workforce Development program designed to train students in positions such as Teacher’s Aide and Receptionist. These jobs are in contrast to the manual labor positions which are typically the focus of traditional vocational training programs. 

“Our goal is to change the perception of what people with disabilities are capable of,” Pursai said. “We see such a large gap in what types of jobs are available for adults with IDD. We want to show that our students can be in positions that require skill sets such as critical thinking, problem solving and emotional awareness.” 

The school so far has hired nine associate professors, one musical accompanist, two apprentices and three interns from its student body. It also has hired four additional outside professors with recognized physical disabilities. 

Today, College of Adaptive Arts serves more than 225 adults with IDD across nine different states. It offers a mix of online learning and in-person classes, which take place on the campus of West Valley College in Saratoga. 

“It is so inspiring to see the positive impact our program has had in the lives of our students and families over the past 15 years,” Pursai said. “We are excited to keep growing and transforming the way the world views individuals with disabilities.”

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A staff member wrote, edited or posted this article, which may include information provided by one or more third parties.


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