Recipe for Establishing a program

From our 30 year experience the following ingredients may be helpful in replicating the Center model in your community. This entire website is devoted to describing these ingredients in detail and providing you the tools to replicate the program. The following are summary statements of the ingredients we utilized. It is up to you to combine the ingredients to create your own recipe for success!

Grassroots Involvement: The first and most vital ingredient is grasroots involvement from the very, very beginning of your efforts. Potential students, caregivers, family members, community leaders, elected officials, volunteers, activists, and medical specialists are all part of the grassroots foundation you will need. There is no point in designing a top-down organization that has no one to serve and no one to advocate on its behalf. There is nothing more important than engaging a strong and varied grassroots group from the moment you begin planning through every stage of your history.

An Active Stroke Club, Parkinson's Club and/or Multiple Sclerosis group: Local Stroke Clubs are a wonderful source of grassroots volunteers and potential students. Although not as common, there are likely to be local groups of Parkinson's and MS patients. Checking with a discharge planner at your local hospital or even the phone directory can lead you to these groups. Cabrillo's Center began as an extension of the local Stroke Club and incorporated other disabilities in response to community needs and requests.

Strong and Dedicated Volunteers: Auxiliary and Advisory Board: Volunteers in a wide variety of capacities have been vital to the Cabrillo model's success. Formal groups like the Auxiliary and the Advisory Baord serve important functions in fund raising and in maintaining strong community support. Volunteers help with ongoing Center operations, temporary tasks, instruction, advocacy, raising community awareness and raising money.

Any new Center will need volunteers in both planning, implementation and ongoing operations. Volunteers need to be nurtured and effectively utilized. Local volunteers centers can be helpful in providing training in volunteer management and as a source of people who can benefit your efforts.

A Strong Advocate in the Local Community College: Cabrillo's Center had the initial support and commitment of the college president. Over the years, close ties to members of the Board of Trustees have also been developed and maintained. Initially, a strong advocate within the college structure is vital if a Center is to be established. During later stages many advocates will be needed to keep the college community informed and supportive of the Center. Center staff must be active in college affairs to maintain reciprocal knowledge an support.

It is also vital that full college credit be given for Center classes. It is not possible to financially support a Center like ours without that level of state funding. Disabled Students Programs and Services plus Allied Health professional career education staff will be vital to your success. Acquire and maintain their support and advocacy from the very beginning of your efforts.

Support of the Local Medical Community: It is mandatory that the local medical community fully understand the benefits and features of the model. An educationally-based rehabilitation center is NOT a competitive program, but an adjunct to whatever medical rehabilitation is affordable and readily available in the community. Most of the ongoing referrals to a program will come from local specialists and physicians. And, these medical professionals will be happy to have a long-term theapeutic setting available for patients when they are ready for discharge from a medical setting. For very rural areas, where community colleges are more numerous than medical rehabilitation services, a college-based Center will be a great asset to community residents. A college-based Center can also provide affordable rehabilitation services to those who cannot afford rehabilitation beyond emergency or basic acute clinical care.

Make sure that key medical personnel play significant roles in both planning and implementing your new Center.

Support of the Local Political Community: The support of the local political community is as important as support of the medical community. Local elected officials can have an enormous impact on the success of any community program. These are the people who respond to the needs of their constituents and are happy when constituents' needs are well-met. Because an educationally-based rehabilitation program is unusual and not part of mainstream, readily-understood community or community college responsibilities, it is vitally important that community decision-makers are dedicated to the program. At least five times in our more than 30 year history, local elected officials were instrumental in assuring the Center's survival during challenging economic times.

Make sure that key elected officials and major community leaders play significant roles in both planning and implementing your new Center

Enthusiastic Staff: An enthusiastic staff is vital and not hard to find. Many therapists are excited about the possibility of working in a setting that is controlled by student need and not by the constraints of MediCare or private insurance. Therapists who have a innovative flair take readily to designing curriculum and changing their focus from one shaped by a disease-oriented model to an educational model. A full multidisciplinary team composed of clinically-certified speech, occupational, and physical therapists as well as counelors who are well versed in psycho-social treatment and case management are important. Adaptive physical education specialists can be an important compliment to the team. Instructional assistants will be required if classes are large and if the curriculum is varied.

Thoughtful Program Design: Your grassroot community team will help you with program design. The design will focus on meeting the needs of your particular community. However, certain features have been shown to differentiate the Center's model from other similar ventures. Peer support and student self-determination are imperitives. Caregivers need lots of attention and support. Some will want support groups, others will want less formal support, and many will just need to take time for themselves while their loved one is in class. Mixing diagnostic categories and levels of disability has been easy and has many benefits for students and for the community. All of the Center's philosophical tenets that are discussed in the Context & Concepts section have proven valuable and have a well-founded scientific basis.

Finally, program design needs to take into account methods of simplifying college requirements and procedures for students, And, at the same time, Center processes need to blend seamlessly into the college organization and structure. This requires careful planning and assistance from all areas of the college that will interact directly with your program.

A Facility: You must have some physical space to hold classes. However, that space can be shared, can be a hand-me-down, or a spare classroom or office space somewhere near or on a community college campus. Our history has shown that even the roughest, most run-down space can be transformed into a healing environment. A dedicated community and a host of volunteers can do wonders! Be creative, start with what is readily available and grow into your ideal setting.


We are grateful to Congressman Sam Farr and the US Department of Education,
Office of Special Education and Rehabilitation for the funding support that made this website possible.