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 Relevance and Elegance

We love how the CH&S Cultural Literacy Curriculum continues to evolve. For many years, we have been conducting perfectly wonderful General Knowledge Classes and that’s been nice. Now we have become more ambitious.

Students are not merely attending classes. They are taking courses. They are not just hearing information. They are dynamically and enthusiastically absorbed in the learning experience. Here is how it works:

Small Study Groups led by Instructors research and explore subject matter of interest and substance for 4 weeks and they collaborate to create Reports.

Typically the Report includes:

  • Facts & Talking Points
  • Ideas for Exercises / Discussion Stimulants
  • Related Vocabulary, Topics, References
  • Review Questions
  • An Appendix
  • And an attractive Cover Page that credits the Study Group members with authorship.

On the 5th week, each Study Group presents a show and tell performance on their subject to a general assembly of the student body. They make it fun and they make it memorable and they distribute their Review Questions to each of the other Study Groups.

For the next 5 weeks, these Review Questions are used, at scheduled times, as springboards to revisit class content so as to measure and to maximize retention. Progress is documented upon transcript pages and well-deserved Certificates in Cultural Literacy are awarded as credit is amassed.

In other words, collectively as a company, we are writing (and we are living) a pretty good textbook on Cultural Literacy that goes on and on.

Here are of some of the courses we had through 2020/21:

  • Motown Zoot Suits & Roots
  • Wild Cats & Dogs
  • Golden Gate Bridge
  • Mysterious Mandala
  • Wonder Woman
  • Elephants
  • Benefits of Vinegar
  • Bird Migrations
  • Manifest Destiny
  • Animal Camouflage
  • Tasty Fruits and Fun Plants
  • All About South America
  • ABCs of Cryptozoology
  • Macaroni & Cheese
  • Mexican American War
  • Owls of the Night and Day
  • Roswell, New Mexico
  • John Legend
  • Hedgehogs
  • The Oregon Trail
  • Beatlemania
  • Edible Mushrooms and Killers
  • Unbelievable Ghosts / Haunts
  • Mosh Pit History
  • Sea Creatures from Beyond
  • Northern Pacific Railroad
  • Plato's Parable of the Cave
  • World Music
  • Weirdest Places You Must See
  • Astronomy: Stars & Planets
  • Vegan Cooking
  • Birds of Sonoma County
  • Wildfires and What to Do During Fire Season
  • All Things Japanese
  • Egypt
  • Germany
  • Greenland
  • Michael Jackson
  • Buddhist Philosophy
  • Rene Descartes and "Cogito Ergo Sum"
  • What is a Virus?
  • Black Poetry Day
  • What is Appendicitis and How is it Treated?
  • Llamas and Their Role in COVID-19 Research
  • The History of Public Transportation
  • International Fast Foods
  • Run DMC and the Relevance of Rap 
  • The Scariest Halloween Foods
  • Salvador Dali
  • The Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade (history and changes during a pandemic)
  • Oprah Winfrey
  • Sauciness (sauces of the world)
  • "Meow Like a Pirate Day"
  • Disneyland
  • Villains
  • The Jeopardy Show
  • National Parks
  • Lions
  • Spaghetti
  • Dragonflies
  • 15 Best Things to do in England
  • Kangaroo Island
  • Extreme Sports
  • Most Famous Robberies
  • Ancient Greece
  • Volcanoes, Active & Dormant
  • Shaman Magic
  • Bats, Ugly & Heroic
  • Epic Sandwiches
  • Early Days of Hollywood
  • Coolest Places to Live
  • History of the Grilled Cheese Sandwich
  • Benefits of Lemons
  • Symbolism
  • The Major Poets
  • Ferris Wheels
  • Butterflies
  • Superstitions
  • Spam Spam Spam Spam
  • Tom Hanks
  • Collections
  • Robots
  • Fake Food
  • Cat Crazy
  • Christmas Island



One of the main themes underpinning the CH&S curriculum is Citizenship! If you are one of our students, you will meet people, learn things, teach things, do things, create things, go places, make connections, and make differences. You will not be wasting your time! You will not be bored! And you will know it is real! We are proudly and enthusiastically involved with a number of extraordinary community partners. Here are a few:

The Alano Club in Petaluma is a big, friendly community meeting place where people courageously recovering from substance abuse problems can find educational, social, and recreational supports and services. The building is pretty huge and it is often hopping. We are happy to send a janitorial crew there on Tuesday mornings for cleaning projects and for vibes!

For over a decade now, CH&S has been assembling and packaging materials for DAAC (Drug Abuse Alternative Center) located in Santa Rosa. Among the many services this wonderful organization provides is to supply health and safety kits (assembled by us) to “at-risk” populations.

You have probably heard of WIC (Women, Infants, and Children). It is a federal nutrition program that helps mothers and young children eat well and stay healthy. Our clerical/production crews have been preparing informational materials and mailings for the Sonoma County office for the past 12 years.

Cal Skate is a roller rink in Rohnert Park and a flat out magical place owned and operated by the very best people who treat our clean-up crews like family when we visit every Wednesday morning to perform an array of janitorial duties.

The Tara Firma Farm is a beautiful place in Petaluma where our crews go to behave just like farmers. One of our main chores is to clean and crate lots and lots of eggs. Interfacing with the poultry community can actually be quite exhilarating!

Project Avary offers long-term support, resources, guidance, and training for children with incarcerated parents. It is a community that gives kids a deep sense of belonging, dignity, and hope. We regularly are called upon to do clerical work for this valuable and unique cause.

We began our affiliation with the San Rafael Public Library when members of our Literary Circles became interested in volunteering with the Branch’s Homebound Readers Program. Now we are busily maintaining 2 of their Little Free Libraries and beginning to participate in the Book Repair Project.

Citizens of Novato have organized and come together as a movement and as a labor of love to restore the iconic downtown Novato Theater (just a block from our Life College campus). We can hardly wait for this vibrant community center to open and our volunteers are doing everything we can to help with fundraising and other odds and ends. 

Giant Steps Therapeutic Equestrian Center is a non-profit therapeutic equestrian program creating a supportive and dynamic environment to enhance the quality of life for children and adults with disabilities living in the San Francisco Bay area. We do our part helping out with chores and hanging out with horses.

Each semester a new group of Dominican College Nursing Students intern at our Day Program, providing materials, consultation, and seminars for our participants. We always look forward to when they come and we are constantly impressed by their style and substance. Marin County should appreciate the influx of excellent nurses that come through Dominican.

The Nazareth House in San Rafael offers a variety of care levels, suited to the changing needs of seniors, in a warm, home-like environment. We try to do our part by creating and delivering elegant floral arrangements to the people living there on both a regular and random basis. How nice is that?!

The Honey Badger Coffee House at 101 Golf Course Drive in Rohnert Park has really really great coffee and yummies and really really cool and convivial vibes! For the entire month of February, 2020 a gallery of our student art hung there with all proceeds going entirely to the artists. Thank you, Chrystal Nezgoda, owner and former CH&S Instructor. She is unique and amazing! Our art we'll be back next year... and we'll be dropping in whenever we're in the neighborhood!

The Marin County Food Bank provides a spectrum of services designed to support the health and wellbeing of low-income people in our community who are struggling to make ends meet. Lots of people benefit from the Food Bank and lots more volunteer there too. That’s what we do.

We are very thankful for opportunities to further beautify the beautiful world we live in with our Community Clean-up Crews that are frankly so much more than mere litter abatement. Here is a list of the people and companies with whom we work:

H&L Properties: 4 parking lots in San Rafael

Kevin Shipsea: The Mahoney Building and Brewster’s in Petaluma

The Dora Knell Family: The Douglass Building in Petaluma

The City of Novato: The Hill Road creek-side paths…

In addition, we regularly conduct guerrilla-style community clean-up raids when we notice public property that is in need of prettying. (Of course, in so doing, we only go where we are welcome, safe, and legal.)

Combine the above with everything else we pack into each little workweek and you have to admit we are busy. But it’s not just busy. It’s true. It’s big. It’s meaningful. It’s fun. And do you know what’s crazy? We want more!

Can you be our partner too?


Education is a Priority!

In support of the recently enacted Assembly Bill 1041, the Golden Gate Regional Center (GGRC) Board of Directors adopted an Employment First Policy. It reads

Integrated, competitive employment will be the first option considered for every individual supported by GGRC who is of working age, regardless of the severity of disability.

This is important, historic, and huge! And like any huge undertaking, there are thousands of ways we could get it wrong. But we can save that discussion for another (perhaps less upbeat) article.

All we can say for now is that CH&S really wants it to happen and really wants to play a major part in it. If we were the ones wording the policy, however, we’d do it just a little bit differently. We’d say

A high-quality education will be the first option considered for every individual supported by GGRC who is of working age, regardless of the severity of disability.

This is because we believe that what is true for the non-disabled person is also true for the disabled person. Someone who is better educated can better choose from among better choices of better jobs.

For years now, the emphasis within Special Education settings has been shifting away from the traditional classroom and towards work-related experience applicable to likely jobs. Of course, this makes a whole lot of sense. The classroom is not the optimum place for learning to bag groceries, or to do laundry, or to walk dogs.

But as we play up job-readiness skills, we should be careful not to play down “book learnin'." That laundry room may not exactly be the optimum place to learn about Faulkner’s novels or The Hundred Years War… and once someone has found himself in a “real job,” his success may very well hinge upon his scholarship as much as his skills. Inevitably he will have to come off the assembly line and attend the company Christmas party. Does he possess the cultural literacy that it takes to confidently and effectively schmooze? That is the question. Now we are talking about being really and truly INTEGRATED.

At CH&S, we have always taken education seriously and have never assumed that a person’s intellectual or developmental disability precludes his opportunity to meaningfully broaden the breadth of his learning. In addition to concentrating upon vocational training and work services, we offer an extensive, liberal arts curriculum.

We know college is not for everybody; but as we envision Employment First, we feel the opportunity for people to get a real University-style education should be part of the picture, if not a priority.

We aim to be that important "higher educational" step in the process by which you further your career as well as enrich your life.

If you have a job and your hours are unconventional or sporadic and you need a place to go during the day where you won’t be bored and you won’t be wasting your time, we welcome you, whether it is 5 days a week or for just a class here and there. Fit us into your schedule.

The CH&S curriculum is multi-dimensional, dynamic, versatile, accessible, and ambitious. Here is a look at some of the Certificates and Awards students can work toward.

  • Cultural Literacy Certificate(s)
  • Cultural Erudition Certificate(s)
  • Student Teaching Certificate(s)
  • Professionalism Certificate(s)
  • Citizenship Certificate(s)
  • Academic Achievement Certificate(s)
  • Scholastic Action Certificate(s)
  • Independent Study Project Certificate(s)
  • Expressive Arts Awards 
  • And more…

Completion criterion for all of the above typically includes coursework, practicum, and fieldwork. All Certificates, Awards, and Transcript Pages are placed in the Student’s Portfolio and look awfully good on a resume.

Oh… and did we mention? We are having fun!


A Word For Our Sponsors 

I like the Public Broadcasting Station (PBS). It “celebrates diversity, embraces innovation, values lifelong learning, and partners with those who show a passion for public service.”

When I watch PBS, I do not feel like I am wasting my time or rotting my mind. If you need a break from ticky-tacky laugh tracks, vacuous vulgarians, and nattering nabobs, turn the channel to PBS. You will feel smart, proud, and inspired.

I think I like PBS because it is a lot like our non-profit organization, Community Homes and Services (CH&S). Just take all of those nice attributes listed above and, hey yeah… That’s us!

To be honest, however, one thing does annoy me about PBS (and I don’t think I’m alone on this). I know it is an extremely worthy cause, but why do they always have to interrupt a perfectly wonderful show to shamelessly badger us for a solid half hour about pledging a donation? I, for one, would more likely and more happily give with just a tasteful and succinct little reminder now and again.

CH&S is not like a lot of other non-profits. We don’t put much effort into fundraising (like we probably should). Frankly, it is just not in our nature to do so.

I guess we think of ourselves as PBS minus the campaign drive.

So here it is… our tasteful and succinct little reminder: You can read all about CH&S on this website and while you’re here, go ahead and press the Donate button.

And now… back to our Program!




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