Stories that will make you laugh, stories that will make you cry, stories that will make you think long and hard about how we as a society approach the topic of disability. You can expect them all when the curtains go up on “Vox: Under Construction” in the Larry D. Carter Theater on the CentreTech campus on October 26.
“Vox” is a collaboration between CCA theater students and the Phamaly Theatre Company, a Denver-based organization whose performers have disabilities across the spectrum – physical, cognitive, emotional, and intellectual.
Caption: (Left photo) Phamaly actor Paul Migliorelli, left, and CCA student Miles Groberg rehearse their lines for “Vox: Under Construction” on Sept. 21 in the Larry D. Carter Theater on the CentreTech campus.
(Right photo) Phamaly actor Don Gabenski rehearses his lines for “Vox: Under Construction” on Sept. 21 in the Larry D. Carter Theater on the CentreTech campus.
Through comedic scenes, dramatic monologues, song parodies, story interpretations, and other dramatic forms, the topic of disability will be explored when the “Vox” actors – 11 Phamaly performers and seven CCA students – take the stage. Some of the performers have had cerebral palsy since birth and navigate the world in motorized wheelchairs, some have autism, some have anxiety and depression. But all of them want just one thing: for the audience to “re-envision disability.”
“People with disabilities live their lives and do what everyone else does, just differently,” said Phamaly artistic director and acting executive director Regan Linton, who suffered a permanent spinal cord injury in a car accident when she was a junior at the University of Southern California. “Often, disability is equated with tragedy; so we wanted to present different narratives – people with disabilities are also incredibly complex and funny.”
Paul Migliorelli is one of those people. Like his “Vox” counterparts, Migliorelli, who’s been blind since birth, has a wonderful sense of humor. He had also been deaf for the better part of his life, but a surgery in 2007 and another the following year restored his hearing in both ears. Migliorelli said he appreciates when people ask him questions about his disability rather than make assumptions.
“Please, ask away. There are no silly questions,” he said. “I’m just grateful that you’re curious and want to know.”
Phamaly was formed in 1989 when five students at the Charles Boettcher School in Denver became frustrated with the lack of theatrical opportunities available to actors with disabilities. Kevin Ahl, who has had cerebral palsy since birth, was one of those original five.
“We performed musicals in high school,” he said. “Then we auditioned for other shows, but they were inaccessible because of our disabilities.”
Today, Phamaly produces professional-scale plays and musicals year-round throughout the Denver metro region. The company has won a slew of awards, including “Best Theatre Company” (from 5280 Magazine), “Community/Professional Theatre Company of the Year” (Alliance Colorado), “Small Nonprofit of the Year” (Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce), and a mountain of honors for its individual productions and performers.
“I’m incredibly excited about this collaboration with Phamaly,” said CCA theater director and performing arts coordinator Stacey D’Angelo. “The performers have overcome many obstacles and will continue to do so. I’m honored to have the opportunity to work with this cast and thrilled to share their voices on our CCA stage.”
D’Angelo – along with CCA adjunct instructors Meghan Frank and Julie Rada, and Phamaly Theatre Company member Mark Dissette – teamed up to direct the performance, which will be sensory-friendly and have American Sign Language interpretations, captioning, and audio descriptions. Every word of the production has been written by the performers.
When the actors take the stage for the first live performance on October 26, they will have dedicated more than 100 writing and rehearsal hours to preparing for the show, plus the everyday challenges they encounter to get to the show. “One gentleman in my group has hours of bus transport just to get here,” D’Angelo said.
She added that dedication of the cast shines through in their support for one another: “There’s so much determination, courage, support, and love in that room.”
So why the name “Vox: Under Construction”? Vox means voice in Latin. The Phamaly “Vox” series dates back to 2008 and “gives a voice to those who are often rendered voiceless, stigmatized, and marginalized by society,” Linton said. As for the “Under Construction” piece, “we are always ‘under construction,’ whether we identify as able-bodied or having a disability,” D’Angelo said.
“You’re one moment away perhaps from everything changing, whether it’s due to age or disease or an accident or you’re born that way,” D’Angelo continued. “We’re always working to construct ourselves.”
Never until “Vox: Under Construction” has Phamaly collaborated with actors outside the company on a “Vox” production. Here’s another first: Some of those with whom the Phamaly actors will take the stage don’t have a disability.
“Having the Phamaly performers and our students on stage together will be a wonderful educational opportunity,” D’Angelo said. “It’ll be great to see the different stories that come out of that.”
So why perform? Wouldn’t a less-demanding activity be more enjoyable? Absolutely not, these actors say.
“You feel that energy when you’re on stage. You feel that rush and you get addicted,” said CCA student Adam Koudsi, who was diagnosed with autism when he was in preschool. Koudsi said his goal is to attend CCA’s Colorado Film School to pursue a career in screenwriting.
Another CCA student, Bobby Carey, who was born with cerebral palsy and can’t use his right arm because of it, echoed Koudsi’s sentiments: “Like a lot of people, I discovered theater in high school. I’ve always thought it was fun.”
And when the curtains drop on “Vox: Under Construction” for the last time on Nov. 4, Linton said she hopes the audience will exit the theater with a new perspective on the topic of disability.
“I hope they learn something new and come away with a better understanding of those on stage and everyone who has a disability,” she said. “Hopefully the performance will expand their hearts and minds.”
Find out more about "Vox" and purchase tickets for the show at the Vox website.
Students enrolled in CCA’s Fire Academy can now train on more modern equipment after the college bought a used fire engine from the Aurora Fire Department.
While a used fire engine can cost anywhere between $40,000 and $55,000, CCA was able to purchase the truck for $5,000 with some help from the city of Aurora and the college, said Mark Stephenson, coordinator of Fire Science Technology.
Stephenson heard there was a truck coming out of service from the Aurora Fire Department in March and asked CCA President Betsy Oudenhoven if she could speak with Aurora City Manager Skip Noe about purchasing the engine.
Stephenson said three people at CCA were key to acquiring the truck: Oudenhoven; Kathy Bodemann, purchasing coordinator, who helped get the truck into the state budget; and Beth Lattone, Allied Health director, who provided $5,000 from the department budget to pay for the engine.
CCA received the new engine on September 8 and was able to use it for Fire Academy training the next day. The engine is stored at the City of Aurora Public Safety Training Center where Fire Academy students train on Saturdays.
The truck replaces an older unit that Stephenson estimates may date back to the late-1980s and had experienced many engine issues that made it difficult to keep running.
The truck purchased from the Aurora Fire Department is a 1995 Emergency One Hush Pumper and the more modern truck has much of the same equipment that the Aurora Fire Department uses, Stephenson said.
“It’s great for our students to train on the apparatus they use in their career. It’s a mandatory piece of equipment for a fire academy,” Stephenson said.
Caption: Mark Stephenson stands outside the new fire truck with a sign saying "Thanks"
As many of you are aware, the Community College of Aurora has adopted a guided pathways model to help us to improve student success.
The Guided Pathways to Success (GPS) model is similar to the GPS systems we use to help us navigate the world when it is unfamiliar to us.
Many of us use GPS on our phones, in our cars, or even on our watches when we are trying to figure out how to get somewhere. However, in order for this to work we need to first know our destination. Then, the patient voice guiding us can help us figure out how to get there safely and efficiently – and it does this by giving us information and guidance before we have to take action. Best of all, if we take a wrong turn the persistent voice can redirect us. And the good news is that we don’t usually have to rely just on the voice – there are street signs, environmental cues, distance markers, and other mechanisms of support along the way. Basically, both GPS systems are like maps come to life.
The analogy works on many levels. The majority of our students are first-generation college students who are new to higher education and may not have access to guidance from friends and family (or that guidance, while well intended, might take them off course). They do not always know what their destination is and may not even be fully aware of the options available to them. And chances are they won’t want to choose from a dozen different options. They probably want to know how to most efficiently and effectively find their way – and preferably on just one tank of gas.
Our students do not have the time or money to get lost. And if they wander, they may get lost. Time for a good road map and some friendly, helpful guidance.
Guided Pathways to Success helps students by making sure that they know their destination and they have a roadmap. Are they preparing to transfer to another college or enter the workforce? Are they planning to complete a certificate or degree? Do they understand the importance of completion – and how to get from their starting point to their end goal?
At CCA we have created structured academic course maps so that students can see how to get where they are headed. These are clear plans that show them which courses they need and in what order. Some will travel quickly, some will take more time. The maps work for both full-time and part-time students. Department chairs have also worked hard to schedule by degrees so that students can take all of the courses they need at a predictable time of the day and, ideally, complete an entire program at just one campus, reducing or eliminating the need to travel back and forth.
Our advisors are now all pathways advisors and are the holistic helpful voices that guide our students on their journeys. Advisors will all be prepared to assist students with academic, career, and transfer advising, basic financial aid, and academic intervention. Consistent with the Guided Pathways model, they will help students to “start with the end in mind” and get them connected to an academic program and the accompanying course maps. They will also each serve as a liaison to an academic department(s) in order to facilitate communication between the academic program and the advising staff. Eventually, the advisors will be able to reach out to students who get off course and help to redirect them before it is too late. All students will be served at either the CentreTech or Lowry campus Advising Centers, making it easier to locate and connect with an advisor. With the arrival of our new Vice President of Student Affairs we will also be looking into extending office hours to better serve students who are not able to access services during the day.
This model connects the dots between Academic Affairs and Student Affairs, Liberal Arts and Career and Technical Education programs, and the CentreTech and Lowry campuses. In support of this model the college will also begin to implement Navigate software to simplify and clarify enrollment, registration, scheduling and advising for our students. I am confident that these initiatives will help us provide a better experience for our students as they enroll and progress through the college. I’ll keep you posted.
What classes do you teach at CCA?
I have taught CCR 092, 094, English 121, English 122, and I teach English 131 and 132 – the tech writing program for the Diesel Power Mechanics program.
How long have you been teaching at CCA?
Two years now.
What else do you do at CCA?
I am the adjunct representative to the faculty senate – this is my second semester. Coupled with that, I am the adjunct liaison to the Academic Affairs executive council. I am also a member of the professional development committee. I am part of the English Intervention Team. The EIT is a program that supports students in English courses and it is associated with the Gateway to Success initiatives.
What is your educational and professional background?
I’m a first-generation college student; I am the only one of my two siblings that has a four-year degree. I barely graduated from high school; I hated high school. I think I graduated with something like a 2.2 GPA. The night I graduated high school, I drove to Indianapolis. I ended up getting hired on a U.S. Automobile Club Midget Sprint Car and Silver Crown Car race team as a mechanic. I did that for three years. In 2004, we won the national sprint car championship and set a world record for speed in a sprint car at Pikes Peak International Raceway.
After that I went back to California and joined the San Francisco Carpenters Union and ended up working my way up to journeyman. And that’s when I started going to community college; I was 22 and I woke up one morning and thought there was something more and started taking classes.
By my second semester of community college, I realized that my new dream, my new passion, was that I wanted to return to community college as an English professor.
I just realized how powerful reading and writing were. It’s something I never really realized, and it wasn’t really instilled in me. Being in that community college setting, I just realized “I think I want to do that.” From there, I transferred to a small private university in the Bay Area and I got my bachelor's degree in English.
I ended up getting my master’s degree in English Literature from the University of Buffalo. After that I started teaching, but I knew I needed more; I knew a master's degree didn’t prepare me for the kind of reading and writing that community college students need and want. So I ended up going to San Francisco State University for a graduate certificate in teaching composition and a graduate certificate in teaching postsecondary reading.
What brought you to CCA?
I always had the idea of going back to teach at a community college. I started as an adjunct at the College of San Mateo, which was my alma mater. Unfortunately, my fiancée and I at the time were victims of gentrification – the Bay Area just blew up. We'd been paying $2000 a month for a 700-square-foot apartment, and they raised our rent to $2,800. We thought, “OK, she’s from Buffalo and I’m from California – where is that happy medium that has seasons but isn’t Buffalo winters and isn’t lake-effect snow?” We kind of pointed at Denver and moved to Aurora in 2015. I was sending out emails and calling chairs at all the community colleges, and that’s when [former English Department Chair] Scott Reichel reached out. I flew out and interviewed; my fiancé and I got married at the end of June 2015, and I started teaching here in August 2015.
What advice would you give a CCA student who has hit a wall or is struggling in class?
I would help that student develop strategies to reflect on the cause of the struggle; it’s not enough for a student just to say “I’m struggling. I’ve hit a wall.” You need to help them identify the wall and identify what behaviors are leading to that struggle. They might not be the student's behaviors alone; maybe it’s the instructor, maybe it’s the course, maybe it’s the course content, maybe it’s a language barrier. Identify those variables and set realistic goals to modify them.
Did you have a memorable teacher or instructor?
I have three – one of the first was Barbara Jones, at College of San Mateo. I took developmental English and composition with her; she was so understanding. It was one of the first times in my life I didn’t feel judged as a student. I didn’t feel like she was judging my intelligence or judging my capabilities. She was allowing me to be who I was and working with that.
The second one was David Danielson, my Intro to Philosophy professor at CSM. He pushed me to think outside of the blue-collar world. He really pushed me to fall in love with Aristotle and Plato and David Hume and Immanuel Kant and really pushed those theoretical envelopes.
The third would be Rob Komas at CSM, my intermediate algebra professor. I hated math in high school. He was a huge influence on how passionate I am in the classroom – how animated I am. He really taught me what it looks like to love teaching and he taught math in a way that made it human.
What do you like to do outside of teaching?
One of the biggest things I do is construction – we are remodeling our house, converting it into a 1910 Craftsman. It’s a 1979 tract home, so we are doing a lot of built-ins and fine woodwork. I am doing all of the woodwork, plumbing, and electrical work.
I still work on cars; I’m always wrenching on something. I have a hot rod in the garage and one day we will have another one.
Pizza with the President
President Betsy Oudenhoven greets Todd Santee, math tutor within the TRIO Student Support Services English as a Second Language program, during Pizza with the President on September 21 in the Rotunda.
True Colors Rehearsal
Christiana McMullen, adjunct instructor with the Music Department, works with students Paul Blasi (left) and Denzel Mangram during the “True Colors” rehearsal in the Fine Arts Building on September 27. “True Colors” is a student-led music group that will perform at CCA’s Fall Concert on November 17.
Salsa y Salsa
English faculty member Cynthia Villegas, H. Ray Keith, director of Instructional Intervention and Support, and Tamara White, dean of Students, served as judges during the Salsa Y Salsa competition in the Rotunda on September 26. Students, faculty, and staff submitted salsa recipes for the judges to choose and select a winner. This event was held as part of LatinX and Hispanic Heritage Month.
“Explore Your Depths” Career Fair
CCA students met with potential employers during the “Explore Your Depths” career fair on September 12 in the Rotunda on CentreTech campus.
CCA Marketing Manager Alexander Schultz and his wife Ashley welcomed their son, Ezra Aaron Schultz on July 22 at 9:50 p.m. Ezra weighed 6 pounds, 13 ounces, and measured 19 inches long.
Camino al Colegio
Paulette Dalpes, vice president for Student Affairs, speaks to the audience during Camino al Colegio on September 21 while Noel Chavez-Guizar, college recruiter for the Center for Recruitment and Orientation, looks on from the back. Camino al Colegio is an event that seeks to educate the Hispanic community in areas such as how to enroll, financial aid, and programs offered at CCA.
(Caption: Left Photo) Panel members from left to right: Ricardo Gambetta, manager of the Office of International and Immigrant Affairs for the city of Aurora; Julie Gonzales, policy director for the Meyer Law Office; Justin Valas, health policy advocate at Asian Pacific Development Center; and Luigi Guadarrama, of Voto Latino, discussed resources, legal information, and more during the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program in the Rotunda on September 13.
(Caption: Right Photo) Students from CCA’s Translation and Interpretation program assisted during the DACA event and provided translations in Arabic and Spanish.
Valerie Gantzler, coordinator for the Accelerated Pathways to Success program, and her husband, Armando, represented CCA during an event at the Village Exchange Center on September 23.
Katie Nittmann, formerly assistant to the vice president of Student Affairs, assumed the role of project director for the Transfer Success Program on October 5.
David Murphy, formerly a testing specialist within the Testing Center, assumed the role of assistant to the vice president of Student Affairs on October 5.
Jessica Cassarino, Strengthening Working Families Initiative grant manager
Banibrata Roy, director of Institutional Research
Jorge Rivera, Grounds and Nursery I
Alex Schultz, marketing manager
James Wallace, Business faculty
After nearly two years at CCA, Tammy Ward, associate dean of the School of Professional Studies and Sciences, left the college on September 29 to become director of Concurrent Enrollment Initiatives for the Colorado Community College System.
Caption: From left, Vanessa Vazquez, achievement coach for the Strengthening Working Families Initiative; Gabriela Metzler, student resource specialist within the School of Professional Studies and Sciences; and Tammy Ward pose for a picture during Tammy's going-away potluck on September 27.
Howard Hampson, director of budget and analysis, retired from CCA on September 29 after more than four years of working at the college. Friends and colleagues came out to celebrate Howard but his retirement from CCA won’t be for long – he will return to the college in a part-time role on November 1.
What is the scariest movie you ever saw and how did you react afterward?
William Flowers, coordinator and interpreter coordinator, Office of Disability and Equity: “I saw 'The Exorcist' when I was 10 years old. I, um, sort of developed a nightly routine of praying for protection from demonic possession and slept with a Bible next to my pillow for eight years. I wonder if that’s why I like the TV show 'Supernatural' so much now. Also, 'Ticks.' I probably saw it 15 times on Showtime when I was a kid. Ticks mutate to the size of softballs. I haven’t relaxed in the outdoors since.”
Cindy Hesse, Human Resources director: “'Children of the Corn!' Growing up, I lived in rural, eastern Colorado on a farm. Both sides of the narrow, lonely country road leading to my house were tall cornfields. I drove that stretch of road way too fast for my own good after seeing that movie! I just hoped I never had a flat tire in that stretch of road, because I knew I would sit in my locked car until morning or until someone else came along. I am certain I would not have gotten out to change it on that section of the road!”
Brandy Monckton, Pathways academic advisor: “My friends and I got a bootleg VHS copy of 'The Blair Witch Project' about six months before it was released in theaters, so we thought it was legit unreleased footage and proof that a poltergeist murdered a bunch of filmmakers in the woods. I still have nightmares!”
Chris Tombari, associate dean, School of Liberal Arts: “'The Exorcist.' I saw the original when I was a kid and was terrified. Then after I became a parent, I saw the director’s cut. This time I saw the movie through a different lens. All those harsh tests the hospital did on their daughter freaked me out even more than the possession scenes.”