April, 2018
Welcome to Cristina Connections

“We dream of the day when we see all people for who they are and where individuals with disabilities are fully included in their communities.”
Abilities Now Bay Area

Each issue of Cristina Connections will highlight our partners in the Cristina Network. You make it possible for people in need to overcome barriers in their lives.  In honor of your important work, we dedicate this newsletter to YOU. 
Defiance, Ohio is a small city in a very rural section of Ohio, the big cities are more than 100 miles away. It has a population of about 16,500 people. New Heights Educational Group was founded in 2006 because of a need for educational services that were identified by its founder, Pamela Clark. Built on a model where volunteers, including Pamela, tailor their support to a range of educational needs for people that seek their assistance, “Everything we offer is tailored to them. We meet them where they are. We work to change the statistics of failure.”

Currently, says Pamela, there are 83 volunteers helping people, children and adults with a variety of educational needs. NHEG's library of over 4000 books was collected for families who can't afford books to enrich their children's learning.  A local church or library and other places provide spaces for learners and their tutors to meet. NHEG has no building of its own.

When citizens in small cities like ours join together to help to support what people want to achieve for themselves and their families, says Pamela Clark, that is very important. “No one should be left out of finding educational opportunities to help them reach their goals. We work together to make it fair and equal for everybody.”
Monique and Avis
Think about people with severe physical and speech disabilities. You know, the individuals who after their school years are frequently found isolated and forgotten in day care centers, care facilities or in their homes. Can amazing things ever happen for them? The 84 people who are helped by Ability Now Bay Area i n Oakland, CA through their day program each have a story that embodies empowerment. Here are two of them.
Monique Harris has been at Ability Now since 1998. She has Spastic Cerebral Palsy and is unable to use her hands. When the Small Business Center opened she was excited to participate in it, creating her design business. Computers used at Ability Now are modified according to the individual needs of the users. That means they are set up with assistive technology. For Monique, this meant a head wand to access the keyboard and the Adobe Photoshop software she requires to create her designs. Printed on pillows (such as the one seen above), scarves, and postcards, her artwork is sold at art fairs and local shops and is a source of self employment income.

Avis Gray, now 80 years old, has cerebral palsy. She was educated at home by her mother and attended high school through correspondence classes and graduated in 1960.When her parents became too old to look after Avis, she was placed in a convalescent home where she lived for 30 years. Because she could not communicate, the staff thought she was illiterate.
When Avis came to Ability Now in 2002, she signed up for classes in the Computer Learning Center where she was able to use an adaptive communication device. You can imagine everyone’s surprise when she began to write, and write really well! Since being at Ability Now, Avis has self-published three books. She also wrote an educational pamphlet for people who work with persons with disabiliies titled Talk to Me! which is used in trainings, seminars, and workshops. Thank you for writing, Talk to Me! Avis. We are so pleased to know who you are.
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Thank you New Heights Educational Group and Ability Now for sharing your stories!
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