Tactile art classes, taught by sculptor Ann Cunningham, have been a unique part of training at the Colorado Center for the Blind since the 1990s. Students might work in stone, clay, make tactile drawings with Ann’s Sensational Drawing Board, or go wherever their creative sense pulls them.
Just before his graduation from the Center and return to New York, Peter talked about his experience in Ann’s art class at the Center and what it meant to him.
A big heart and steadfast determination to finish his training at the Center despite significant health challenges are the things that fellow students and staff remarked on again and again Friday morning when Christopher was awarded his Bell of Freedom.
Julie Deden noted the disruption in the middle of his program as she presented his bell, and how he insisted on continuing. But the most important thing, said Julie, is that Christopher has “such a big heart”, and that he’s always ready to help others, volunteering to help out with youth programs and more.”
“Christopher’s determination was fueled perhaps by the successes of students after he arrived.
“Every time someone graduated, I told myself I was one graduation closer,” he said of the time before health issues temporarily intervened.
Christopher’s Bell of Freedom ceremony took place immediately following morning announcements. Though he served his grad meal a couple of weeks ago, he finished his last graduation requirements this week, including his drop on Thursday!
“You have a heart of gold,” and “Keep your heart open” typified the sentiments of fellow students and staff during the “love session” following the bell ceremony.
Though originally from Georgia, Christopher has an apartment and will stay in the Denver area.
“I know you’re going to succeed,” Julie told him. “You have the tools and the drive.”
(Editor’s Note: This press release was forwarded to us by the Community College of Aurora, and it is certainly worthy to be shared with all. Congratulations to Reem!)
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
DISABLED STUDENT RISES TO THE CHALLENGE TO GRADUATE
Reem Hamodi Graduates with 4.0 GPA
May 9, 2016 – Aurora, CO – When Reem Hamodi arrived in the United States five years ago from Iraq, she wasn’t sure what to expect.
She felt isolated because her English wasn’t perfect and communicating with others was a challenge, especially because Hamodi is also blind.
Despite those challenges, Hamodi graduated from the Community College of Aurora on May 7 with an Associate of Arts degree in psychology and with a 4.0 grade point average with the intention of becoming a psychology professor.
Hamodi grew up in Iraq and lived in several countries such as Jordan, Syria, and Libya.
“There were no services for blind people in my country,” she said, referring to Iraq.
She said it was the happiest day of her life when she arrived in the U.S. “I attended Colorado Center for the Blind for eight months to learn how to cook, travel, read, and write Braille. I felt arriving here was the starting point for my success.” After graduating from the Colorado Center for the Blind, Hamodi began taking classes at the Community College of Aurora in 2012.
Hamodi has overcome many obstacles by learning the technology and social skills she has needed to become an independent person. Working with CCA’s Accessibility Services Office, students like Hamodi receive equipment and continuous support to help them realize their potential.
For example, students learn to use JAWS, a screen reader technology, which helps them read assignments that instructors place on the web. Hamodi also had a tutor for math and a talking graphing calculator to help her through math classes.
Hamodi has this advice for students with disabilities: “Think about your possibilities instead of your limitations,” she said. “Be positive about your life and do not give up to your life’s struggles.”
This was the largest graduating class in the college’s history, with 326 students graduating.
About the Community College of Aurora
The Community College of Aurora (CCA) has campuses at CentreTech and Lowry in the greater Denver area. Equipped with the latest technologies, CCA allows students to study new and traditional programs, while also offering Colorado online classes and degrees. CCA’s service community includes 325,000 people in a 350 square-mile area and CCA’s student population reflects the diversity of this community. The college provides lifelong educational opportunities, prepares the current workforce, and promotes excellence in teaching, learning and service. For more information, visit us at www.ccaurora.edu.
We’re still buzzing with the excitement of last Saturday. It’s not just the work, but it’s spirit of the folks who came and the shared effort!
Saturday, April 30 dawned to several inches of wet snow on the Center’s grounds, and temperatures in the mid-30s. The rain mixed with snow continued all morning and afternoon, but it was Comcast Cares Day 2016 and dozens of Comcast employee-volunteers and their families showed up anyway to work on our landscaping and other tasks. They came because they said they would, and because this event is one of the largest corporate-sponsored volunteer programs in the US. It’s obviously the people – the employees and their families – who truly make it a huge success.
“It’s beautiful,” Kimberly McCutcheon said as things packed up before noon. “It would have taken us years to get all of this done!”
Last year, more than 900 nonprofits benefited from the coordinated efforts of more than 100,000 Comcast employees who volunteered on a Saturday. In our neck of the woods alone this year, The Action Center and the Boys and Girls Clubs were on the agenda for Comcast Cares Day in the south Metro area, along with the Colorado Center for the Blind.
By 7:30 a.m., the Center’s meeting room was full of people drinking coffee and juice, eating Danishes and collecting this year’s Comcast Cares T-shirts. Outside, the two Comcast organizers, Deb and Tori, had set up a canopy and table as command post, and dozens more volunteers continued to arrive, greeting each other with friendly ribbing and laughter. When Abner showed up in shorts he attracted much of the good-natured attention.
“It’s a nice spring day,” was his smiling rejoinder.
Notably, Abner wore his 2004 Comcast Cares Day T-shirt. He’s been on hand for every one of them since then. The very first was held in 2001.
After some initial remarks from Rydne Williams, Vice President of Field Operations in Comcast’s southern Colorado region, and Littleton City Council member Peggy Cole, the work got underway with gusto, under the able direction of Deb and Tori. Dave Krook was also there. He is the Director of Installations in this area. All these folks came to get their hands dirty, too.
What They Did
Shortly after 8 a.m., the chilly, damp air outside the Center resounded with the scraping of shovels in gravel and rakes and brooms and leaf blowers and a lot of laughter. They pulled weeds, cleaned up leaves and other debris in our front rock garden and along the front of the building. They put in new planter boxes, spread two tons of landscaping rock, picked up trash blown in over the winter, cleaned up our Legacy garden, put in some new landscaping timbers, planted dozens of perennials and pansies, painted over some ancient graffiti on one of the sheet metal air-handling units on the roof, and replaced stained ceiling tiles in the lobby. They even gave us a new flag – ours had gotten rather tattered in the winter elements. Comcast covered the costs of all the materials.
Inside the kids made play dough and painted rocks, the latter laid out in the rock garden before they went home.
On one of my many trips in and out I found half a dozen older kids examining the brochure racks in the lobby.
“Be sure to ask if you have any questions,” I offered.
“Can you read this,” one of them asked, handing me a a Summer Youth brochure in Braille. I read it to them.
“That’s so legit!” exclaimed Jania.
So we held an impromptu lesson on the history and use of Braille. Before long the kids were writing their names in Braille on the Perkins at the front desk, then passing out Braille alphabet cards to all the younger kids, too.
And then about 10:15 a truck pulled up full of Jason’s Deli sandwiches and everybody broke for lunch. The final tasks were completed after eating, and then everything cleaned up and packed up.
The amount of work accomplished was amazing, but the lasting impression of Comcast Cares Day 2016 for us at the Center was the joy and the community of the Comcast employees. It was a family event. It was a fun event. They came in the snow, they left us flowers and they went on with their Saturday.
We went on with ours too, but buzzing well into the week. So we want to send one last, big thank-you to everyone! It’s great to be part of this shared community!
Twenty-four blind and visually-impaired Front Range youth spent the weekend of April 22-24 in Estes Park. It had been planned as a snow-shoe trip, but instead the kids and 9 adults took a 6-and-ahalf mile hike in Rocky Mountain Park.
For the past couple of years the Center has cosponsored a snowshoeing trip for blind kids along the Front Range with Colorado AER . The trip has a history stretching back a decade or more. Steve Patten and Martin Becerra, along with Warren Knight – a current ITP student – served as the maile counselors.
Basically, it involves some pretty dedicated teachers for blind and visually impaired kids planning, raising money and driving kids up to the mountains for a two-night winter activity. Note that these teachers are giving up their weekend into the bargain, as did CCB staffers and our student.
This year’s trip was held over the weekend of April 22 to 24 at the Estes Park YMCA. Now, we would normally think – that’s kind of late in the year for snowshoeing, isn’t it? Well, in 2015 the trip was originally scheduled for the end of February, but had to be postponed … get this … because of snow.
That’s right, but it makes sense when you realize that a heavy snowstorm was in progress that weekend, dumping a lot of very wet snow. Travel was quite hazardous on all roads leading up to Estes Park, whose elevation is 7,522feet.
So the “snowshoe” date was rescheduled at the end of April in 2015. Everyone was certain that it would be hiking weather. Surprise! It snowed and the snowshoeing was great!
This year the trip fell between two weekends of heavy snow in the mountains, yet it was a hiking weekend – there wasn’t enough snow left from the big storm the weekend before to float a snowshoe. They had them along, just in case …