anticipate
 ©Alex Mitchell

©Alex Mitchell

Life is a lot like the process of making art.  You cannot avoid the parts you dread.  You cannot skip ahead.  Forcing the pace is counterproductive.  You may feel more effective if you’re doing a million things at the same time, but that’s only an illusion.  Because you’re avoiding the real deal by being too busy.  You’re not actually getting ahead, you’re going in circles.  And Life is about moving forward.  Give the present moment all your attention in spite of the overwhelming urge to get up and run.  If you approach this moment with curiosity and an open mind to discovery, then you will be moving forward with anticipation for what’s next.  Because what’s next is just another way of saying change.  And change is the only thing in Life that is 100% irrefutably guaranteed.

Written by Alex Mitchell 

The artist and inspirational art-book author Alex Mitchell is a born storyteller who loves sharing her life through art.  She created a series of three poem picture books with tender and humorous poems for readers of all ages.  Currently she’s happily obsessing over her latest picture book project.

 

De Colores
Our Friend, Stacey
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This is Stacey's first time in The Miracle Project®.  She comes from a huge background of theatre and performing, including The Barbary Coast review in the Mission District of San Francisco, The Producers and Music Man at Hillbarn Theatre in Foster City.  Stacey is also part of an Adult Autism group called AASCEND (Autsim Aspergers Spectrum Coalition for Education Networking and Development), whom have a TV show called "Life on the Autism Spectrum", where she takes part as the Cultural Correspondent.

De Colores
I'm Brie :)
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"I'm a junior in high school in San Francisco. I am funny, friendly and I love to act. When I finish college, I want to be a DJ." - Brie

Irma Velasquez
Hi Jonathan!

Jonathon is enthusiastic about anything to do with dance and music. He is an “awesome singer” as he plays his guitar. He loves to read and is curious about the world around him as he learns from his volunteer job at the Redwood City Museum. He wants to make more friends and is exited about the theater production that will come out of the week-long workshop.

Irma Velasquez
Meet Tom!

Gliding around the roller rink, forward, backward, and on one foot, Tom moves with ease and grace through space. He’ll help you learn to skate backwards if you like.

An intrepid hiker, Tom is an experienced navigator of Peninsula trails on both sides of Hwy 92.  As for lunch, Tom loves to move through options from around the world:  pho, pad seuw, hot and sour soup, chili, chicken teriyaki, pesto. . . . He cooks delectable scrambled eggs and is partial to mini chocolate chips with organic frozen yogurt.

If something is out of place, Tom will notice and take care of it. He enjoys having a bird’s eye view from high places. And he doesn’t ever forget a person he likes.

De Colores
What's Next?

Aaron’s love for music is undeniable. At the age of eleven, his teacher noticed a natural ability to move to the beat of his favorite songs. He turned and jumped as his classmates clapped and cheered him on. His smile exhibited pure joy. Teacher Alex, was moved by his love for dance, and invited him to join a musical production at a local theater. This was Aaron’s introduction to the stage and a to a live audience. I didn’t know what to expect from him, as usual, he surprised me.

During seven consecutive Saturdays he shared a studio space with ten other young people and became part of a production crew who rehearsed skits and songs that resulted in a performance in the Hillbarn Theater in Foster City, California.

Musical skits from the production, Free To Be You and Me, written by Marlo Thomas made up the ninety minute musical. The performers, ranging in ages from nine to fifteen, were joined by peers who supported those who needed guidance in performing their parts. Kate, a fifteen-year-old actress, became Aaron’s acting buddy.

During the performance Aaron appeared nervous, until the applause filled the room and his face lit up. The smile lingered throughout the evening and widened when he joined hands with his fellow actors and took a final bow. The joyful expression in his face stayed with me. My plan was to enroll him in the next production the following summer, but unexpected events made it impossible.

 My heart broke when, the following year, Aaron became one of the 30% of individuals with autism who suffer from seizure disorders. Although some children experience convulsions at an early age; most common are those that have an onset during the puberty years. Aaron’s teen years were stressful for his body and for our family. For eight years we sought help from neurologists who could help lessen the onset of recurring seizures. Visits to the emergency room and behavior challenges filled many days and nights.

After experimenting with several medications without seeing an acceptable reduction in seizures, a progressive neurologist suggested that we try to surgically implant a device, very similar to a pace maker, called Vagus Nerve Stimulator (VNS). Although the VNS did not decrease the frequency of seizures it did improve his mood. Weekly seizures continued to drain his energy.

In 2015, two remarkable events changed the course of our lives. In May Aaron began to take small doses of Cannabis oil. After a year of consistent dosing we have begun to see a reduction in seizures and most importantly, a much happier and energetic young man.

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As an added bonus, later that same year, I met Elaine Hall an acting coach, whose son Neil is also a music lover. We share the dream of brining opportunities to our sons to be seen on the stage and share their talents with others. Elaine is the creator of The Miracle Project®, a drama and acting program that promotes the talents of young people with different abilities. Her program allows them to shine on stage.

  At the age of twenty-four, Aaron will have another chance to be part of a theater production. He will be one of six participants in the pilot program scheduled for August 2017. His natural love to move and express himself with music will continue in a production that will be called “What’s Next?”.

Irma Velasquez
The Inclusive Culture
Inclusion

The other day, our De Colores team discussed what makes a successful summer workshop for adults who are creative and want to be part of their community. It is vitally important to our team that all of our programs allow for creative expression, to promote a cultural shift towards inclusion. Our workshop-in-the-making is called, Building Inclusion. This summer workshop utilizes the evidence-based methodology of The Miracle Project®, a program where inclusion is a core element of its noted success. 

Inclusion is a hot topic, locally and globally. De Colores is making a mark in our communities by addressing the isolation and exclusion of adults with disabilities, starting with their exclusion from the work force.

In 2015 the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that the unemployment rate for people with a disability was 10.1%, compared to 5.1% of those without, nearly double the national average. That means that more than 6 million adults are excluded from the work force. This figure does not include individuals who are underemployed.

The expressive and performing arts are vehicles that provide a transformative experience by allowing students the opportunity to gain transferable skills for careers across many industries and life. The arts enrich human communication by connecting those expressing themselves with the recipients of the creative expression, the audience. 

The Miracle Project® is a perfect example of the power of communications and inclusion through the arts. The program extends beyond acting, singing and dancing. For example, when visiting Elaine Hall, the Founder of The Miracle Project®, in her classroom at the Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts in Beverly Hills, the power of her art was palpable. During rehearsal, Elaine commanded the room. She imparted confidence in her students with every run-through and every line spoken and unspoken. The music reverberated throughout the room, filling it with energy as the students recited their lines or moved to music. Students, verbal and non-verbal, joined with others who demonstrated a wide range of artistic, physical and expressive abilities. In the rehearsal room, there was no us or them. Everyone had an equal ‘voice.’ The equality and inclusiveness were magical.

An inclusive philosophy can be applied to a wide range of areas. Creating inclusive spaces is not solely a matter of accommodation. It must be a philosophical restructuring of how businesses and systems conduct themselves, inside and out. Inclusive environments benefit those in tech companies, banks, schools, on the sport fields as well as on and off stage. All too often people of diverse abilities struggle to find a place within social and work environments. Inclusion can be as simple as creating a job for a greeter who welcomes customers into the grocery store, someone who waters the hydrangeas in a flower shop, or an usher who guides a person to their seat in a dark theater. The natural consequence of inclusive environments is the cultivation of strong, thriving communities.

Through theater, Elaine has perfected her craft, teaching her students a vast range of skills such as patience, physical and emotional control, memorization, leadership and, most importantly, self respect. The Miracle Project® is an evidence-based program that focuses on allowing each student to find his or her own identity, giving them space to find pride within themselves. In helping to build and strengthen relationships, these skills can later transfer to the office, a classroom, a coffee shop, a baseball field, the Senate floor, Hollywood or even Broadway.

We encourage communities that value inclusion and diversity to create opportunities for self expression and open dialog, to close the divide between those with different opinions, ideas, cultural backgrounds and personal beliefs. We can create change, one miracle at a time.

Melissa LuVisi