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Carol Leish, Disability Consultant   Articles about Carol Leish's Presentations
"Call Me Capable" with Carol Leish
Oxnard woman conquers disabilities
Drunken driver victim now motivational speaker
Don't Call Her Anything But Capable!
Capable of Success
Call her capable: Leish hustles with chutzpah
Oxnard Woman Advocates Capability
Playing the Disability Game the Right Way
Adjusting attitudes for a hamburger
Using humor to change attitudes

Call Me Capable Game   Reviews about Call Me Capable Game
Speaker Promotes Capability over Disability
Educational game called "Call Me CAPABLE" encourages empathy
Enlightened Play

Other Articles Written by Carol Leish
Camarillo Hospice Ready to Aid
Sunrise Optimist Club of Ventura
A Lasting Legacy through Dedication
State of Education for Ventura Unified School District and Ventura College in 2015
Ventura Council for Seniors Transportation Summit
April 16 is National Decision Day
Welcome to the Ventura Avenue Adult Center
Reinventing yourself in your senior years (Part 2)
Reinventing yourself in your senior years (Part 1)
Casa Pacifica has many champions
Extended Learning Academy
United parents help each other
CAREGIVERS: Volunteers Assisting the Elderly
Ventura Avenue Adult Center and Senior Lunch Program
A Turning Point for those surviving on our streets
Tri Counties Independent Living Resource Center
Providing public education for students with needs
A Tribute to Nanci Cone, 1948 - 2013
Education, Support and Advocacy for the Mentally Ill
Research to Ease Mental Illness
Life After Brain Injury: Camp helps brain injury survivors find independence
The Arc of Ventura County: Supporting independence since 1954
Easter Seals proud of its inclusiveness
Disability ettiquette
Leish: Strategies for coping with teasing
Continuing to Hustle With Chutzpah
Sparkling as a Diamond while Walking Tall
Inventions by Women That Have Shaped Our World
Who knows how to listen
Focusing on Strengths Leads to Balance
Hustling With Chutzpah
A Matter of Attitude
Employing the Disabled
Making Dreams Come True
God in My Life

Dear Capable Column
Dear Capable column 5/23/2008
Dear Capable column 5/5/2008
Dear Capable column 4/6/2008
Dear Capable column 3/31/2008
Dear Capable column 3/18/2008

July 19, 2015   Ventura Star

Camarillo Hospice Ready to Aid

by Carol Leish

As a nonprofit volunteer hospice and grief counseling center since 1978, Camarillo Hospice serves anyone dealing with a life-limiting illness or grief after a loved one has died.

"Once counseling has been started, there is no endpoint in mind, as long as progress is being made," said Sandy Nirenberg, president and CEO. "Other issues come up during counseling. Goals are always being re-established and our clients, hopefully, are always moving forward."

As a volunteer hospice, Camarillo Hospice offers counseling through counseling interns who have completed their master's degree in counseling and are working on accumulating 3,000 hours of counseling experience before they take the state licensing exam.

"Our interns typically will become marriage and family therapist(MFT) counselors," Nirenberg said. The counseling director supervising the interns is Carole Wadsworth, M.A.,LMFT.

"A licensed clinical social worker(LCSW) also works at Camarillo Hospice," Nirenberg said. "We contract with a few licensed therapists."

Besides individual grief counseling services, the nonprofit also offer various ongoing grief groups. The groups include two on general bereavement; survivors of suicide; adult loss of parent; parent loss of child; bilingual groups in Oxnard; a group for young widows and widowers still raising children; the Good Grief Club for ages 6-14; and young adult groups for ages 14-20.

Both the Good Grief Club and young adult groups meet during the school year. "Grief groups meet in three local schools: Camarillo High, and Rio Mesa High and Pacifica High in Oxnard," Nirenberg said. "We have also had interest in beginning to offer pet loss grief group as needed."

A variety of fundraising events support the organization, including a farmers market from 8a.m. to noon every Saturday at 2220 Ventura Blvd. in Camarillo-in the parking lot of a former courthouse.

Every springs, a Garden Tour features five home gardens, a boutique, plant demonstrations, live music and refreshments for a $20 donations.

Coming up Sept. 6, the Sunday of Labor Day weekend, is the Chili Cook-Off and Music Festival at the Camarillo Ranch, 201 Camarillo Ranch Road, off Mission Oaks Boulevard.

The donation will be $15 for adults, $10 for childre 6-12 and active military, and free for children up to age 6.

"We are always hoping and praying for donations to continue to be able to offer free services," Nirenberg said. Camarillo Hospice receives individual and corporate donations, and grants from foundations.

"I am proud to have been the CEO since October of 2002. Before that, I started as a volunteer in 1995; and then I started on the board of directors," Nirenberg said. "I continue to be proud every day of the work that we do and the services that we provide people in need and free of charge.

"We are always increasing the numbers of people that we serve every year, and manage to fund our programs each year," she said. "Thus, I am increasingly proud of this organization"

Camarillo Hospice mascot Doggy Bella, a Labrador retriever, adds comfort and gets smiles in return from clients before their appointments.

For information about Camarillo Hospice, to donate, or volunteer or receive counseling, go to or call (805) 389-8870

Carol Leish, of Oxnard, is a writer and motivational speaker about disability awareness.


June 24, 2015   Ventura Breeze

Sunrise Optimist Club of Ventura

by Carol Leish

The Sunrise Optimist Club of Ventura is an affiliate of Optimist International, an association of more than 2,900 Optimist Clubs around the wold. The club is a member of the Pacific Southwest District, which is part of Optimist International. The club's motto is to be "A Friend of Youth."

Founded in 1960, the Sunrise Optimist Club of Ventura focuses on serving the youth of Ventura. This service club has members from a cross-section of the business, social, and cultural communities of Ventura. By developing optimism as a philosophy of life, members follow the Optimist Creed. The creed states whithin it the importance of "Being just as enthusiastic about the success of others as you are about your own."

In order to support and encourage the youth of Ventura to excel, The Sunrise Optimist Club of Ventura supports and encourages them by recognizing a 5th Grader from the Ventura Unified School District each month as a Student of the Month. An annual Oratorical Contest encourages middle-school-age youth to speak on a topic related to optimism. An Essay Contest, open to high school youth, encourages students to compete on topics, such as the one in 2014: "As dreams lead to success."

The Optimist club also recognizes influential people within Ventura. A Public Safety Officer of the Year is honored by recognizing either a police officer or a firefighter for their service to the community. An Educator of the Year within the Ventura Unified School District is also honored.

By following the statement from the Optimist Creed, "To look at the sunny side of everything and make your optimism come true," members are better able to become happier, healthier; and, to have more successful careers.

Club meetings are held weekly. Members have various club activities; hear programs of community interest; and, develop friendships with people of all ages. Members also volunteer in philanthropic events that provide a helping hand to youth.

For more information, contact the club president at,


June 7, 2015   Ventura Star

A Lasting Legacy through Dedication

by Carol Leish

After working as the executive director for NAMI Ventura County (part of the National Alliance on Mental Illness) for seven years, Ratan Bhavnani is retiring this summer.

'Helping families is the most critical component to NAMI Ventura County,' Bhavnani said. 'When they connect with us they realize that they are not alone and that there are resources out there, and that help is available. And that recovery is a reality.' He started by being on the board of directors of NAMI Ventura County in 2005. In 2006, he was the board president.

'Before getting onto the board of directors,' Bhavnani said, 'I took a 12-week Family to Family class in order to learn how to help my son. Through this class the focus is on a variety of topics: understanding people with mental illness; symptoms; treatments for illnesses; better communication skills and advocating for your family members.' Joan Wiggins, one of the program coordinators for NAMI Ventura County, said Bhavnani 'has been an incredible asset. His tireless advocacy efforts have made real and lasting changes for the people in Ventura County living with mental illness and their families.' She said he actively worked to improve NAMI's partnerships with groups in the community.

'Thanks to his efforts, NAMI has an excellent relationship with local government and with other community-based organizations,' Wiggins added. 'Ratan is wise and funny, understanding and kind. Working with him has been a pleasure and a privilege.' According to Family to Family teacher Diane Bustillos, 'Ratan has had a huge impact on Ventura County. His knowledge and expertise on mental health issues has helped many families, includingmy own, as well as the community at large. He is very well respected and admired for all he has done for NAMI Ventura County.'

Program coordinator Chris Novak described Bhavnani's numerous accomplishments. 'Ratan has worked tirelessly over the years by leading and expanding the NAMI Ventura County affiliate from offering four Family to Family sessions per year in English to 12 Family to Family classes per year in English and four classes in Spanish per year; a guest speaker series each month; various support groups; the NAMI Walk (an annual walk to raise funds in May); and an annual Christmas Party.' Other programs offered in 2015 include Friends in the Lobby; In Our Own Voice; Ending the Silence; Parents and Teachers as Allies; NAMI Connection Support Group; and a helpline, 805-500-6264.

'Without Ratan's leadership and dedication, all of these programs would not have been possible,' Novak stressed. 'I wish Ratan all the best in his new adventures and will miss his leadership and his unwavering commitment to NAMI Ventura County's mission statement.' As NAMI Ventura County continues to grow, more members of the community may realize that their advocacy work toward helping those with mental illness is essential.

To volunteer or donate, or both, people may call 805-641-2426 or go to the website

Remember that we are all more similar than different.

Carol Leish, of Oxnard, is a writer and motivational speaker about disability awareness.


May 27, 2015   Ventura Breeze

State of Education for Ventura Unified School District and Ventura College in 2015

by Carol Leish

The "State of Education" was presented by the Ventura Chamber of Commerce at the Wright Event Center in Ventura on May 12, 2015.

Speaker, Dr. Trudy Arriaga, who has been the Superintendent of Ventura Unified School District since 2001 said that, "I am post proud of the culture in the Ventura Unified School District. It is one of pride and collaboration. We have been working together for the the benefit of our students. It has been an honor and a privilege to serve over the past fourteen years."

In 2001, Dr. Arriaga started the, "Principal for the Day," through the Ventura Chamber. In 2007, she started programs to help the hungry and to help the elderly. She also implemented haircuts to raise money for people with cancer. Through Ventura Adult Education she started the Ventura County Concert Band for Seniors. Ventura Adult Education had its 14th Annual Festival of Talent thanks to her.

She said that, "I have been impressed with the academic performance of the students and our outstanding teachers. I see exciting times ahead. Thank you for the privlege of serving and for your love and support. I will watch with incredible pride as Ventura Unified moves forward."

Dr. Arriaga was glad the VUSD acquired the Education Service Center, which is the former Kinnko's headquarters, several years ago. The site will be named in her honor, since she is retiring in June of this year. Her retirement party, which is open to the public, will be June 6 at 1:00p.m. at the Bob Tuttle Gym (named in honor of her father, who was a teacher and basketball coach), at Ventura High. She said that Dr. Michael Babb will be the new superintendent.

California Lutheran University in Thousand Oaks, Call will have Dr. Arriaga as a Distinguished Educator in Residence. She will be also teaching in the Educational Leadership Masters Program.

Ventura College's President since the summer of 2013 has been Dr. Greg Gillespie, who said that, "Ventura College has the quality of educational recognition has the qaulify of educational recognition of community college at the national level by President Obama. This emphasizes the role we have to train people for the work force, as well as to prepare those to transfer to a 4 year college; or, directly to go to work."

According to Dr. Gillespie, "I've felt the best about being able to really recognize and develop our committment to helping students to become successful."

"By focusing on the community," according to Dr. Gilespie, "the areas of importance include: "Ventura College Innovaters through Career Pathways; Adult Education; educational services in Santa Paula and the Santa Clara River Valley; dual enrollment; agriculture; and, law enforcement."

He also stressed the importance of strategic goals of, "Increasing partnerships to meet community needs; and, promoting and seeking ways for more effective use of organizational resources."

Thus, according to Dr. Gillespie, "The Ventura College Vision is that we will continue to be a beacon of learning; a source of inspiration; and, guidance for our students and community."

Carol Leish


April 29, 2015   Ventura Breeze

Ventura Council for Seniors Transportation Summit

by Carol Leish

"Since 27% of the population in Ventura are seniors," according to Ventura Mayor, Cheryl Heitmann, "They are an important voting bloc within the city that has a population of around 10,000 people. Consequently, they have an important voice dealing with issues pertaining to transportation."

Suz Montgomery, coordinator of the Ventura Council for Seniors, implemented the Transportation Summit because, "There is the importance of finding ways for seniors and people with disabilities to get the best utilization of transportation around Ventura County." Montgomery, who is executive director of the Extended Learning Academy, realizes the need for solutions regarding transportation issues. "That is why we are having this in order to find solutions. Mobility is important to both seniors and people with disabilities in order to travel around Ventura County."

Masood Babaecian, CEO of Ventura Transit System, talked about providing subsidized service for Ventura County just like it is offered in Los Angeles. "Vouchers would be set up, which the city would help pay for, which would include a 10% discount for senior and people with disabilities. The city would pay for 80-90% of this amount for a 3-4 mile radius. Service would be offered seven days a week at all hours."

Steven Brown, general manager of Gold Coast Transit, said that, "There is a shared ride provided between 4:30a.m. and 10:30 p.m. for $3 a ride for seniors and for people with disabilities with an ADA(Americans with Disabilities Act) card; and, for people over the age of 65.

Tom Mericle, of the City of Ventura, said that there is a traffic hotline, (805) 654-7769 for concerns regarding such things as sidewalks; traffic lights and crosswalks. There is a pothole hotline, (805) 652-4590. They fix potholes within 48 hours."

There will be a follow-up Transportation Summit meeting in the fall of this year, according to Montgomery. "We will continue to focus on providing transportation for medical appointments. Remember that Gold Coast Transit is a blessing to us."

Take care,



April 4, 2015   Ventura Star

April 16 is National Decision Day

by Carol Leish

April 16 is known as National Decision Day, a day when people are encouraged to choose or designate someone to make health care decisions on their behalf if they are unable to for medical reasons.

"On April 16, National Decision Day, it is important to make sure that you complete an advanced health care directive," according to Teri Helton, RN, MSN, who is the Community Outreach Liaison at Livingston Memorial Visiting Nurse Association & Hospice in Ventura. "This enables people to be inspired, educated and empowered about advanced health care planning. Since, according to Benjamin Franklin, ‘Their are two things that we can't avoid in life which are death and taxes.' That's why National Decision Day is always April 16, which is always after Tax Day on April 15." According to the, "Advanced Health Care Directives Facts to Know," supplied by Helton, provisions are included that deal with what the person wants or does not want regarding: accepting or refusing life-sustaining treatments; quality of life considerations, such as IVs, feeding tubes, treatments, etc.; place of death, such as at home or in a hospital; or, post death care and donation of organs, tissues and body.

"Each state has written laws and developed forms designed for that state," Helton said. "California law recognizes multiple forms." She mentioned that these include a California Hospital Association form; the California Medical Association form; The Five Wishes; living wills and trusts; and holographs.

Thus, the "name of who can make health care decisions when the person can no longer do so is known as the agent or surrogate decision-maker," according to Helton. "That person does not have to be a family member or a relative."

"People don't like to talk about the possibility of dying because of the finality of it," Helton said. "People tend to either deny or avoid the issue of planning."

She mentioned the case of a Florida woman who at age 27 had a heart attack in the 1990s.

"Terri Schiavo, who did not have an advanced health care directive, who suffered brain damage due to lack of oxygen to the brain after the heart attack, needed to be fed by a feeding tube, since she was in a persistent vegetative state. Her husband's decision to have her taken off the feeding tube was not followed since her parents kept her on the feeding tube to keep her alive until her death in 2005," Helton said.

Thus, remember, according to Helton, "That by completing the directive, it does give people peace of mind to the final decisions and to select someone who makes decisions for them when they can't make decisions for themselves."

She also stressed that it is, "simple and not so simple to complete."

"Doing it saves money and it doesn't have to be done by an attorney," she said. "And, it actually gives control back to the individual."

She said that "it is important to choose someone who is clear about your wishes regarding your request."

Carol Leish, of Oxnard, is a writer and motivational speaker about disability awareness.


March 18, 2015   Ventura BREEZE

Welcome to the Ventura Avenue Adult Center

by Carol Leish

According to Hans Hormann, the director of the Ventura Avenue Adult Center, "Since the focus of this past year has been to get more people and programs into the center, which is continuing in 2015, we are continuing that focus by creating new programs out in the community to serve more of the population of older adults and seniors." He mentioned that these programs include various things that are listed in the monthly, "Silver Tsunami," which is a newsletter of the programs; activities; and, community services available to adult residents.

Some of the activities mentioned in the current March, 2015 "Silver Tsunami" include:

Tours by bus and on foot(Huntington Library & Gardens; and, the Native Plant Walk);

Art Classes(Pottery for Adults;and, the Readers Theater;

Exercise(International Folk Dance; and, Gentle Yoga);

Services(Free Tax Preparation Assistance; and, Mature Drivers Safety Program);

Nutrition(Senior Lunch Program; and, the Senior Pancake Breakfast).

According to Hormann, "Future plans include, adding more and more programs, such as, Tai Chi.

Regarding the question of why the pool tables at the center waere removed recently, Hormann said that, "After the pool tables were relocated here from the old center(Senior Recreation Center on Santa Clara), we did a comparison of how many people/community members used the pool tables. We compared 2013 to 2014." He continued to state that, "The pool tables served an average of the same 15-20 people vs. thousands of other people served by the overall center. And, each one of the players paid $1 per day; and, we had to have staff in the room, too. Now, the room has Mah Jong, Dancing in the A.M.; and, various informative sessions, such as: dealing with social security and exercise classes."

Barry Rotter, who has been calling bingo at the center for a year said tha, "It's a lot of fun. And, the people who come, which average to be about thirty, are wonderful people." He said that there are prizes of usually $5 for each game. For another game, Rotter said that, "You can win 1/2 of the total. For example: on February 13, we took in a total of $56 for the last game. The person who hit bingo won $28!" He mentioned that the bingo sheets cost $1 for 4 cards. And, according to Rotter, "You can come anytime. You don't have to be a senior to come and enjoy it."

Therefore, Hormann encourages people to enjoy the activities that the Ventura Avenue Adult Center provides. It's located at 550 N. Ventura Avenue at Center St in Ventura, CA. The hours are, Monday-Friday 9am-epm. The phone number is: (805) 648-3035. Contact Hormann at, for more information.

Carol Leish


December 24, 2014   Ventura BREEZE

Reinventing yourself in your senior years (Part 2)

by Carol Leish

In early December, actress Lee Gale Gruen gave an inspirational talk at the Ventura SCAN Health Center. Lee Gale focused on Baby Boomers(people born between 1946-1964) and seniors(people mid 60's and up), to inspire them to realize that there is life after retirement. Lee Gale, 72, reinvented herself as an actress and author after being a probation officer for 37 years in Los Angeles.

Lee Gale stated that people retire for many reasons including being tired of working, ageism, health reasons, getting laid off, or wanting to do something else with their lives. She said the various reasons for being frightened about retirement include: "Are you still relevant?, what to do with your time, fear of the unknown, being bored, depression/anxiety; or, not having enough money to get by.

She emphasized, "Seniors are important to society as caretakers, role models, and tribal elders." She mentioned that seniors give back socially by becoming volunteers at various places, are involved economically by investing and spending money, and are active politically.

"It's important to find joy, satisfaction, and excitement," according to Lee Gale. "The secret is to find a passion and follow it. Try something new to do. Find something that matches your abilities." She said that you can determine your own journey.

Lee Gale's emphasis on finding a passion connected with me, because, at 52 I've been writing more articles over the past few years and really have been enjoying doing it. According to Lee Gale, there are a variety of things that seniors can do to stay busy: such as exercising, singing, dancing, painting, writing a memoir, taking classes specifically designed for seniors, traveling, being involved in service clubs, book clubs or playing card games.

Volunteering to help others is also a very important thing for seniors to do, according to Lee Gale. She also said that volunteering is a great way to stay involved. Consider giving time to the community as a teacher or a coach, helping out at a hospital or library, volunteering at a school or at an animal shelter are examples of various places for seniors to consider getting involved.

Lee Gale said that it's easy to find various activities to become involved with. You can go to senior centers, Google items on the Internet, go visit the library, or go to the website,

Continue to realize that reinventing yourself according to what you're passionate about doing is essential in order to maintain happiness and satisfaction in life.

You can read Lee Gale's book: "Adventures with Dad..A Father & Daughter's Journey Through a Senior Acting Class" to learn more about Lee Gale and to find your own inspiration.

- Carol Leish,


November 26, 2014   Ventura BREEZE

Reinventing yourself in your senior years (Part 1)

by Carol Leish

Lee Gale Gruen, 72, will be speaking about becoming an actress after a 37 year career as a probation officer with Los Angeles County. She has appeared in television, films, commercials, theater, print, and she portrays patients at UCLA Medical School for student training. Her transition to becoming an actress in her senior years has been written about in: "Time Magazine," the "Los Angeles Times," and in Marlo Thomas' book, "It Ain't Over...Till it's Over."

According to Steve Lehman, MPH, MBA Manager at SCAN Health Education Center in Ventura, "The reality is that men and women have their identity tied up in what they do for a living and not in their chronological age." Steve said that he is living the same way that Lee Gale is living as an actor, author, and presenter. He said, that at age 67, he views his career with SCAN as a transition. "I had a dual career in public health. I worked for the county for 20 years, and then for the private sector in health education and wellness programs."

Lee Gale said that, "The goal of my talk will be to help baby boomers and seniors to find joy, excitement, and satisfaction in their retirement from a job, a career, parenting, etc. That way they will be able to start with finding a passion as a motivation to get dressed, get out of the house, and to embrace life." She said that she'll demonstrate this by talking about her own personal journey and what she did in going from a retired probation officer to becoming an actress.

Lee Gale said that at the end of her talk she will be selling and autographing her memoir, "Adventures with Dad: A Father and Daughter Journey Through Senior Acting Class. It is a memoir about her second career as an actress.

On Tuesday, December 9th, 10am--noon at the SCAN Health Education Center, 6633 Telephone Rd., Suite 100. To register seniors and boomers should call (805) 658-0365. Space is limited.

- Carol Leish,


October 5, 2014   Ventura Star

Casa Pacifica has many champions

by Carol Leish

Camarillo-based Casa Pacifica, which opened on July 18, 1994, serves abused, neglected and at-risk youth.

"The philosophy of Casa Pacifica is to try to care for and offer hope and to help these children," explained Vicki Murphy, chief advancement officer and director of alumni services, who oversees programs for transitional-age youth at Casa Pacifica. She added the campus supports 17 programs and a school, all to serve a 550 children a day.

Campus-based services include an emergency shelter, residential treatment, a school, a health services clinic, parent-child interaction therapy and a Coaching Independence in Transitional Youth program.

In the youth program, which is made possible through the support of a number of donors and private foundations, 18-year-olds are offered programs that strengthen educational opportunities, employment, housingoptions, health care and personal and community relationships.

Youth are also assisted in entering and remaining in college, and are given help in finding employment and housing. All in order for them to positively contribute to their communities.

"We are grateful to the community for all their support over all the years. We couldn’t do it without them," Murphy said.

Among the auxiliary groups supporting Casa Pacifica are the Angels (women) and the Amigos (men and women). The Angels areinvolved with the annual Wine, Food and Brew Festival and the annual Fashion Show. The Amigos organize activities for the children, including soccer, hiking and swimming.

As a nonprofit, Casa Pacifica relies on support from the community and has several fundraising events throughout the year.

On Nov. 22, there will be a Fashion Show at the Westlake Four Seasons Hotel. On June 5, Casa Pacifica will be hosting its 2nd annual Yummie Top Chef Dinner. In addition, plans are underway for its next annual Wine, Food and Brew Festival on June 7.

For the sporting public, there the annual golf tournament — put on by the Rotary Club of Camarillo — scheduled for July 20 at SpanishHills Country Club.

To volunteer or make a donation, call 445-7800, or visit Casa Pacifica’s website at

Carol Leish, of Oxnard, is a writer and a motivational speaker about disability awareness.

- Carol Leish,


May 14, 2014   Ventura BREEZE

Extended Learning Academy

by Carol Leish

Suz Montgomery, Founder, Executive Director of Extended Learning Academy, who oversees the Extended Learning Academy says that, "Classes keep people engaged in living/learning, since education is a powerful vehicle." She said that seniors are no longer invisible. "10,000 seniors(Baby boomers born between 1946 and 1964) are going into retirement a day." (Social Security "In 1930, 58 was the average age for men to live to, and 62 for women. In 1990, 72 was the average age for men, and 83 for women," according to Montgomery. "The total number of Americans over the age of 65 will be 13 million in 2050, with a median age of 78.5 years" (U.S. Census by the numbers 2010-seniors.pdf).

"The Extended Learning Academy offers programs in many topics, including, art, culinary classes, exercises classes, including yoga, creative writing, and music," according to Montgomery. "By providing community education for every one of all ages, we also have kid's classes, grandparent / grandchildren cooking classes and senior / kids classes. Everyone has the opportunity of living and learning in order to have a full quality of life until the very end."

Montgomery said that the Extended Learning Academy has credentialed teachers with many years of teaching experience. "This summer classes will be offered at the Ventura Avenue Center. In the Fall of this year, classes will also be offered at the Salvation Army, at St. Paul's Church, and at the Buenaventura Mobil Home Estate." She mentioned that since Ventura college stopped offering community classes through the Kalidescope about five years ago due to lack of funding for the state and city. Thus, "Nonprofits such as the Extended Learning Academy continue to expand upon their offerings."

"My students teach me and I teach them. I've found my true calling. My passion," Montgomery said. "The Extended Learning Academy will lead to improving the quality of our lives." I'm watching a trend of "super seniors"(who are 90 and above), because research data proves that "we're living longer than any time in history, because of exercise, better food, and medical technology. And seniors are the largest voting bloc, since seniors always vote."

Montgomery added, "What happens to people after they retire?" She said that, "It's important to stay engaged in living and learning since the brain is still active in people who retire. I never look at seniors as anyone other than my friend. There is a magical synergism. Seniors regain and maintain their memory by empowerment. I'm empowering people to be successful in learning and remembering."

"We want to focus on community and senior programs and classes. The classes will be targeted to all ages and several dedicated to inter generation," says Montgomery. "We will specifically have professional acting classes and cooking classes."

- Carol Leish,


May 11, 2014   Ventura Star

United parents help each other

by Carol Leish

United Parents, which was founded in 1990 by Norman and Ellen Linder, empowers, supports and strengthens parents raising children with mental health, emotional or behavioral disorders.

This nonprofit agency has the basic principle of "parents helping parents." It assists parents by bridging the gaps in traditional services by integrating local resources to enhance the long-term outcomes in the home and the community.

"Educational advocacy is important to parents," said Ellen Linder, "since parents don't necessarily know or understand their educational rights. We empower them." This is accomplished, Linder said, by going over laws for parents, such as the need for them to be at meetings and the IEP (Individualized Education Plan). "And we offer an advocate who can attend the meetings with the parents, go over their rights and give parents information." Linder said services are provided in both English and Spanish. She said they can provide this service free to families whose children are in the juvenile justice system or the Child and Family Services system. The service is provided on a sliding scale to those who can afford it. IEP training is open to a nybody.

Respite services are important, according to Linder, since it provides a short-term break to parents who may be raising others kids, and if the regular baby sitter won't watch the children. By providing respite services, parents no longer feel like a prisoner in their own home.

"Parents with Purpose," Linder said, "work with families who have either lost custody or are at risk of losing custody of their children." She said parent partners help parents to understand the system and to get connected with resources, such as juvenile justice, for them to get the child back and be successful.

In various support groups, offered in Camarillo, Fillmore, Oxnard, Santa Paula, Ventura and Simi Valley, parents learn from other parents going through similar circumstances. This is a nonjudgmental, supportive and empowering experience, she said.

These groups are offered in both English and Spanish and provide child care at some of the locations.

United Parents is here for the parents, Linder said. She said that a child's emotional / behavioral / mental disorder may be combined with other things. "We strengthen and empower parents by giving them resources to help the kids in the long run. And I see, for the future of United Parents, us being able to reach out and let people know that we are there to support them, to link them to local resources, in order for them to not go through problems alone."

United Parents is always looking for volunteers and board members, and more involvement to help the organization to grow.

Email United Parents at

Contact them for the quarterly newsletter, which lists trainings and local workshops that will benefit parents. Call 384-1555 or go online at

Donations are always welcome, and United Parents is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit corporation with a tax ID. Donations can made at by clicking on the "donate" button for a secure online donation. Call to donate with a check.

Carol Leish, of Oxnard, is a writer and motivational speaker about disability awareness.


April 16, 2014   Ventura Breeze

CAREGIVERS: Volunteers Assisting the Elderly

by Carol Leish

"Did you know that CAREGIVERS: Volunteers Assisting the Elderly in Ventura County is one of the original pilot programs for volunteer caregiving in the nation?"

Executive Director Tammy Glenn said that, "CARGIVERS was one of 25 pilot programs founded in 1984. The model in Ventura Count has inspired more than 600 similar programs around the country."

Glen started with CAREGIVERS in 2012. She had been a caregiver to her mother for 20 years. Besides personal experiences, she has had a combined professional experiences of fundraising, marketing and management that she has been able to bring to the organization.

"We serve more than 500 seniors in six cities throughout Ventura County," according to Glenn. "Our service by volunteers is all based on the idea that a simple neighborly deed can make a big difference in the life of a senior. The neighborly need is tailored to the senior and what they need. This may include companionship, transportation to a grocery store, or to the doctor."

"Volunteers give 2-4 hours a week to a senior in need. We make a huge difference in the lives of sniors who may be isolated and lonely if they don't have family living nearby."

She also mentioned that in addition to the one-on-one matches, volunteers Phone Friends are those who make compassionate calls to fit the needs and interests of the particular senior that the volunteer is matched with. "Some of the relationships that we've introduced go back 20 years. That's how we differ from other organizations.'

Glen said that, "We work with 70 other organizations in Ventura County, such as, Shop-Ahoy, Livingston Memorial Visiting Nurses, and Dial-A-Ride. We partner so that between all of us, we're able to provide a comprehensive care to seniors in need."

"We just had our 22nd Annual Wearing of the Green golf tournament". This year we added a 'Green Tie Hoolie," which is an auction/fundraising event at the Tower Club in Oxnard," Glen said. To donate or to become a volunteer, call CAREGIVERS at 658-8530 or go to


April 2, 2014   Ventura BREEZE

Ventura Avenue Adult Center and Senior Lunch Program

by Carol Leish

Hans Hormann, who recently started as the community service coordinator of the senior center on Ventura Avenue, said that he worked for over three years for Danville, CA as a community service coordinator for seniors. He also worked as a coordinator for an after school program in San Jose, CA.

"The center offers a mix of classes, and lifelong learning activities that serves people 50 and over," according to Hormann. "AARP(American Association for Retired People) offers a matures drivers driving program."

Speakers about a combination of cultural, historical, and current events are also offered." These include health, travel, history, art, music and sports. There are also dining groups, such as the Ventura Supper Club, and Ventura conversational groups. Some of these groups meet at other locations. According to Hormann, the center also offers bingo, sewing, a free lending library, and movie screenings each week. There is also a reader's theater, which is a nonprofit group in which seniors read stories to school groups.

There is a senior lunch program offered at the Ventura Avenue Adult Center. On Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Friday senior ages sixty and over can eat for $3 and other people pay $5 each. On Thursday's, when lunch costs $4, they are catered from places that vary each month.

"We will be getting a variety of different speakers," according to Hormann. "We are in the process of renovating the building and we have new landscaping. An open house will be on May 9th from 3-5p.m." He encourages seniors to come visit the center at 550 N. Ventura Avenue during the hours of 9:00-3:00. Please call 649-3035 and go to for futher information.

- Carol Leish,


March 9, 2014   Ventura Star

A Turning Point for those surviving on our streets

by Carol Leish

Turning Point Foundation in Ventura offers a variety of programs to help the mentally ill who are homeless.

"We really do believe that people with mental illness can and do recover," said Clyde Reynolds, the founder and executive director of Turning Point Foundation. "They are able to manage their mental illness so that they can lead productive lives within the community."

Turing Point's Homeless to Home program is one such outreach it prov ides. Case man agers in the program not only reach out to the homeless offering housing support, but also connect the homeless to resources and services and the means needed to live in the community, including disability benefits and veteran benefits an individual may be entitled to. "We collaborate with the Salvation Army and Project Understanding within the Homeless to Home outreach program," said Reynolds, adding "the goal of our Housing First Services is to place people in housing as quickly as possible and to give them the support needed to remain housed ."

Turning Point's Our Place Safe Haven program is a short-term shelter that provides 10 beds where individuals begin their recovery. It allows individuals to get off the streets.

They are then given assistance in obtaining benefits, mental health services and permanent housing.

"Since the mentally ill are very vulnerable, it’s an ongoing process to off them housing and to get them off the streets," Reynolds said.

Another housing opportunity is the River Haven Dome Community that has 19 geodesic domes (structures for a single individual or for couples) located in Ventura near Olivas Park Drive and Harbor Bouleva Road.

It can house 25 homeless, who otherwise would be living on the streets or in their cars.

Supported housing for the homeless, such as Ventura's Stephenson Place — which has 10 single rooms — is also provided by the Turning Point Foundation, as is Wooley House in Oxnard, a 15-unit, singleroom facility; and Appleton House in Simi Valley, a seven-bedroom home.

Residents at these sites pay one-third of their income to live there and receive case management and support.

Turning Point also manages Villa Calleguas, a 23 one-bedroom apartment complex in Camarillo for people who are mentally ill. The foundation is also currently developing an additional 10-unit single occupancy facility in Ventura to provide transitional housing to veterans who are homeless and mentally ill.

In addition, Turning Point runs programs funded through Ventura County Behavioral Health, including two rehabilitation centers, the Oxnard Club House and the Ventura New Visions Club House, the Wellness Center and the Quality of Life program.

The rehabilitation centers operate five days a week and provide mental health services and activities focused on enhancing daily living skills, and developing community living skills.

The newest program, the Quality of Life Program, places teams of peer support specialists in large board and care facilities where some of the individuals with mental illness are living. The programs include creative arts, and experiences like field trips into the community.

These peer support specialists enrich their living environment and integrate individuals into the community.

In November, Turning Point Foundation began celebrating 25 years of providing services within Ventura County.

Since all programs within the homeless continuum, which receive government funding, also rely on the community for financial support, please contact Turning Point Foundation at 652-0000 and/or go to to donate or to volunteer.

Carol Leish, of Oxnard, is a writer and motivational speaker about disability awareness.


February 5, 2014   Ventura BREEZE

Tri Counties Independent Living Resource Center

by Carol Leish

The Independent Living Resource Center (ILRC) operates within the Tri-Counties of Ventura, Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo. Ventura County is the largest county served within the three counties and will be the focus of this article. Dani Anderson, the Community Living Advocate for Ventura County, says that she offers housing support, advocacy services, independent living skills training, and peer support, among others. She said that, "Our consumers are individuals with self identi-fied disabilities of all ages and all different types of disabilities."

According to Anderson, "The office in Ventura has been around for about 32 years." She also mentioned that, "Jo Black, the director, has been with ILRC for ap-proximately 30 years and is based in Santa Barbara."

Anderson said that a focus of her job is to get more youth involvement in our local disability community. She is focusing on transition age youth (high school). She is starting to do presentations in schools about disability pride to instill self confidence and independent in Ventura County youth. Information and Referral services are provided in Ventura by Jennifer Martinez. Thus, she provides people with information and helpful resources to guide them. Ken McLellan, who provides services similar to Dani, is in the Ventura office once a week. He provides these services to deaf consumers.

Niicolas Crisosto, the Assistive Tech-nology Coordinator, who is in Ventura once a week, assists people with getting the technology and devices that they need to help them live better and more independently. An example would include working with Lens Crafters. This is done through grants and other relationships within the community.

The Benefits Coordinator, Carol Baizer, who also comes in once a week to Ventura, focuses on helping to assist people with work incentives programs, Supplemental Security Income (SSI), and Social Security Disability Insurance, (SSDI), and Medi-Cal. Realize that people with disabilities do focus on what they are able to do in order to feel pride and to live independently within the community.

Thus, to get assistance from ILRC or to become a consumer of services, call 650-5993. Also go to the website at: In Ventura at 1802 Eastman, 650-5993

- Carol Leish,


May 26, 2013   Ventura County Star

Easter Seals proud of its inclusiveness

by Carol Leish

Did you know that people of all ages and abilities and/or disabilities use Easter Seals?

According to its director Cecilio Murillo, "Easter Seals is very community driven and we focus on the entire life span." Easter Seals has been offering services in Ventura since 1945.

Nationally, Easter Seals was founded in 1919, and has been helping individuals with disabilities and special needs and their families live better lives for more than 90 years.

Services offered include behavioral, speech, occupational and physical therapies for people with autism or other developmental needs.

There is a Child Development Center providing day care for children age 2 to 5, with or without disabilities. Easter Seals also has an aquatic center that offers fitness and learn-to-swim services to anyone in the community as well as warm-water physical therapy.

"A typical pool is between 78 degrees and 82 degrees," Murillo said. "Our pool, heated to 94 degrees, is a therapy pool that is ideal for joint pain, since there is less impact on joints and better blood flow."

While use of the pool, fitness and learn-to-swim services are open to anyone, individuals seeking warm-water physical therapy and autism, speech, physical and occupational therapy do need a referral/prescription from their physician. Easter Seals accepts most forms of insurance.

"It's a great community that we've built. Some people come 10, 20, or even 30 years. People into their 90s come. Easter Seals is an inclusive organization," Murillo said.

For more information about Easter Seals, visit or call Easter Seals at 647-1141.

- Carol Leish,


December 22, 2013   Ventura County Star

Providing public education for students with needs

by Carol Leish

The Ventura County Special Education Local Plan Area, or SELPA, is the second-largest one in California. It serves more than 16,000 students with disabilities in the 21 public school districts in Ventura County, the county Office of Education and the Las Virgenes Unified School District in Los Angeles County.

SELPA ensures a free, appropriate public education for all students with identified disabilities, up to age 22.

Fran Arner-Costello, the director of programs and services for 26 years, said SELPA has been around since the mid-1980s.

She said that it serves various ages. The focus is either on birth to age 3, or preschool, or school age - from kindergarten to age 22.

An individualized education program, or IEP, helps students by describing goals for the child and services to be addressed along with any accommodations needed within the school. A student's IEP stays in place until he or she graduates or turns 22.

Transition to adult life starts at age 15. Life skills, career exploration and vocational experiences occur through connection to the state Department of Rehabilitation, the Department of Mental Health and community colleges.

The focus is either on work, supported work, or on volunteering, Arner-Costello said. "Various agencies help out," she said. "These include Tri-Counties Regional Center, Social Security, Employment Development Department, Brain Injury Center, Independent Living Resource Center and Life After Brain Injury."

Students served include those who have learning disabilities (including auditory, visual, sensory/motor/attention processing and memory difficulties), orthopedic impairments (including neuromuscular, skeletal issues and congenital anomalies), intellectual disabilities and autism. Students with ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder), those who are deaf or hard of hearing and those with visual impairments are also served.

Students with emotional disturbances are served. Those with epilepsy/seizure disorder are served, too. "Things have changed over time since I've been at SELPA," Arner-Costello said. "The staff has become much better at working with parents in order for them to understand the system and participate in the decision making about their child."

"Also, staff have become much more competent with their skills, specific for strategies of working with students with autism and emotional disturbances. This includes dealing with non-desired behaviors, behavior intervention strategies and assisting students in accessing core curriculum."

A model school for students with autism, Triton Academy, is in Camarillo. The Phoenix Program, also in Camarillo, is for students with emotional disturbances. An intensive in-home program, COED (Collaborative Educational Services), also is offered, providing support to families and students at home.

"No Child Left Behind gives students access to core curriculum," Arner-Costello said. "Students also participate in statewide testing like all other students."

"We are transitioning here in California to Common Core State Standards, which has a high level of academic demands. We are making sure our students are learning those standards as well."

Consequently, Arner-Costello said, it is impressive to see "the involvement of parents with new things, the expertise our staff has while increasing their skills, and the exemplary programs that SELPA offers."

For more information about getting students involved in SELPA, call 437-1560 or go online to

- Carol Leish,


November 26, 2013   Ventura County Star


by Carol Leish

Re: Teri Helton's Nov. 23 column, "Practice of gratitude can help to go beyond 'Why Me?'"

As Helton states: "Beyond famous tragedies are those that happen daily to individuals we know and ever to us: the diagnosis of metastatic cancer, job loss, bankruptcy, the death of a child and more. Is it no wonder we tend to ask,'Why me?' "

She went on to say that Job in the Hebrew Bible asked the same thing we do: "Why me?" and that "Buddha taught that one should be grateful for suffering and trials."

The above makes me think about Helen Keller and how courageously she dealt with blindness and deafness. She said, "I thank God for my handicaps, for through them, I have found myself, my work and my God."

According to Helton, "As Helen Keller shows us, gratitude has the power."

Changing the the world is possible, as Helton states, if we realize we can go beyond "Why me?" and build a healthier you. Thus, realize your gifts in order to be able to express them during this holiday season.

You will be grateful that you have been able to improve the world with your attitude of gratitude and your attitude to improve what you can.

- Carol Leish,


October 30, 2013   Ventura BREEZE

A Tribute to Nanci Cone, 1948 - 2013

by Carol Leish

On Oct. 18 my beloved friend Nanci Cone passed away in her sleep.

"She touched everyone and she had a glow to her," said her husband of 11 years, Fred Kastel. "Nanci was from Philadelphia. I'm from Baltimore. I was a professional horse race jockey. We met at a poker game. We have a tight knit family. We lived in Ventura for 8 years and in Oxnard for three years."

According to her sister, Arlene Schwartz, "Nanci loved life, loved people and always was there for them no matter what. She was an activist for many different causes and did a lot of volunteer work. Nanci coordinated various events and did fund raisers. She was a computer expert. She built a computer in the 80's in L.A. She was definitely very mechani- cally inclined. And, because of her love for animals she was involved in animal rights."

Her daughter, Gillian Cone stated, "Mom had the most beautiful soul I have ever known. She was always caring, thoughtful and loving."

"Mom helped others when they needed financial help. She would do everything in her power to help others.

When an animal was in need of a home, she found them a home through us. When a friend needed somewhere to stay or a shoulder to cry on, my mom would be there and when Dad and I didn't know what to do, where to go, how to move forward in life, Mom would go to the end of the earth to make sure we were happy.

"Mom has left behind her memories, love, and dreams to keep alive with all of us." Her sister, Arlene, said that, Nanci was a walking library and an avid reader. According to Arlene, "She had a Mensa I.Q. She loved theatre and movies. She was a sports enthusiast. She was an avid pinochle and poker player. She always won!"

Nanci got her B.A. at Temple University in Philadelphia where she majored in com- munications.

Nanci was also in naval intelligence. She was the only female assigned to naval intelligence. She was an extremely fast typist. She was in the naval reserves for six years.

She worked as a researcher for Diana Ross in New York. She produced and coordinated a 24 hour marathon on the east coast for TV. She also did promo- tions and public relations. She worked with Trudy Haines in television. Diana Ross got Nanci a job in Los Angeles with E TV Network. She also worked for Walt Disney and Hanna-Barbera in L.A.

When she was in L.A., she left the en- tertainment business and took a job as an administrative assistant at a private school in Studio City, Campbell Hall. Hollywood stars sent their children to the school.

When she moved to Ventura, Nanci took a job with the City of Ventura as the director of the Ventura Avenue Senior Adult Center for 5 years. She helped to get many programs started at the senior center. Her boss, Marcia Ortiz, got her on a weekly radio show: The Dave & Bob show on KVTA for a 5 minute segment. From that, she was involved in a show that was called, "55+" and it dealt with various senior issues.

After working at the Ventura Avenue Senior Adult Center, Nanci worked for Caregivers. She would interview seniors to see what programs would be of benefit to them.

After working for Caregivers, Nanci answered an ad on Craigslist where she got connected with Margaret Rust and became a companion to her for 2 years.

She wrote for the Ventura Breeze for 6 years with her column the Senior Conenection. She wrote about issues related to seniors. She also had articles published in the L.A. Times and the Ventura Star.

According to current Downtown Ventura Rotary secretary, Dr. Jim Deardorff, "Nanci has been an active member of the Rotary Club of Ventura and a past club Director. She was honored twice as a Paul Harris Fellow by the Rotary Foundation and is also a benefactor of this foundation." He said that Nanci left Rotary in June 2012. "The club first met Nanci long before she became a member when she worked with the club to serve breakfasts to seniors at the Senior Center on Ventura Avenue."

Irene Henry, current president of the Downtown Ventura Rotary, said that she knew Nanci for 15 years personally and professionally. She said that, "Nanci put her heart and passion into helping the seniors and youth."

Thus, Nanci Cone touched many lives, including mine. Her legacy of the importance of educating and informing others, and accomplishing her best in order to make the world a better place will live on. Her memory will also live on.

- Carol Leish,


October 13, 2013   Ventura County Star

Education, Support and Advocacy for the Mentally Ill

by Carol Leish

How does NAMI Ventura County (National Alliance on Mental Illness) help to eradicate prejudice and stereotyping toward people with mental illness?

According to its executive director, Ratan Bhavnani, "NAMI is here to help the community to realize that people with mental illness are our family members, our friends, and neighbors living within the community. There are many people living healthy and productive lives and this can happen for everyone.”

NAMI Ventura County utilizes community outreach and offers a number of programs that provide free support for people within the community who suffer from mental illness and for families that have a loved one with a mental illness. There is also a Connection Group delivering help to those living with mental health conditions.

"People with mental illness need to realize that they do have a mental illness and not deny it," Bhavnani said.

The NAMI Helpline, (500-6264) which has been running for a year and a half, offers support Monday through Friday, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. The helpline is manned by volunteers trained to provide support and resources to people with mental illness and their family.

"NAMI in our own voice is a community education program that informs people within the community the fact that mental illnesses are brain disorders and that recovery is a reality to clients who share their personal recovery with a backdrop of similar stories nationwide," Bhavnani said. "The purpose of this program is to erase the stigma of mental illness and to encourage people to seek treatment early.”"br>

The NAMI school program's emphasis is on early detection and early prevention of mental illness. Educating students and educators to be able to recognize the early warning signs of developing mental conditions is essential.

The Family Support Group encourages the family to set an important role in helping the loved one with a mental illness move toward recovery. Education and support of the family regarding this organic condition occurs.

NAMI Walk in the Fall, is the organization's biggest fundraiser of the year. "It's a stigma-busting and fundraiser walk," Bhavnani said. "Walkers get pledges to raise money." Donations can be made via NAMI’s website,, or at its general monthly meetings.

NAMI is currently preparing for 30-year anniversary. "On Nov. 2, we will be having a 30-year recognition and Casino Night," Bhavnani said. "We will recognize founding members and use the event as a fundraiser."

He added it's important to remember that NAMI is here to help the community, free of charge. Reaching out through education, support and advocacy is important to eliminate the prejudice of mental illness and to produce harmony within the community.

For more information or to make a donation, please contact NAMI at or go to its website or call 641-2426.

- Carol Leish,


September 6, 2013   Ventura County Star

Research to Ease Mental Illness

by Carol Leish

As an advocate for people with physical/learning/mental disabilities (challenges), I agree with Erbe's statement, "Even if you're lucky enough to have avoided personal experience with mental illness, you've probably felt its impact" since, as Erbe wrote, mental illness may afflict a loved one, a friend or neighbor.

I agree with the statement that we all have a stake in the future of this critically important field.

I do not think that psychiatry relies too much on medication, as a lot of people believe. Even though talk therapy or a holistic approach to depression is helpful, medicines can be very helpful, too.

The column states, "Psychiatry has proved that mental illness is the product of biochemical aberrations and that it deserves parity with other fields of medicine." I hope that parity does occur soon.

Realize that, as Erbe wrote, "A tenth of Americans 12 and older take prescription antidepressants, the Centers for Disease Control and prevention reported in 2011."

Realize that, as Erbe wrote, "A tenth of Americans 12 and older take prescription antidepressants, the Centers for Disease Control and prevention reported in 2011."

I am glad that the future for this field is limitless with the continual development of new medicines and even, according to the column, a drug company, medical device manufacturer and university think tank are collaborating to find ways to regulate the body's organs and functions through electrical impulses: "They are implantable medical devices that could have a profound effect on regulating mood disorders and many other diseases."

Thus, through research, improvements in the treatment of mental illness will occur soon. Continued research also will ameliorate things.

Now, as long as we eradicate prejudice and stereotyping towards people with mental illness, harmony will occur.

- Carol Leish,


September 4, 2013   Rotary Club of Ventura

"Call Me Capable" with Carol Leish

by Carol Leish

Today's speaker is Carol Leish, MA. She is a unique motivational speaker, writer and trainer, with over 10 years experience in teaching and working with Social Service agencies. Her programs offer the audience a unique insight to the world of the physically, mentally and learning challenged person, because Carol is speaking from her own personal experiences.

Carol invites her audience to join her personal journey of coping with visual and speech challenges. She enlightens people by focusing on the strengths that people with disabilities have, and demonstrates that there is always a way to get around a situation by improvising or accommodating to it. She deals with a sensitive subject in a way that inspires and educates the listener.

As a child, Carol sustained speech and vision disabilities as a result of an auto accident. Instead of focusing on her injuries, Carol choose to focus on her abilities and strengths. By age 22 she had already proven that she was extremely capable, as noted from her former ophthalmologist; "You have proven the pessimists wrong, and the optimists right. I congratulate you!"

Carol graduated from CSU, San Bernadino, with a 3.6 GPA, earning her Masters degree in Education and Counseling. She went on to teach at San Bernadino in City schools, and worked for a variety of non-profit organizations.

Carol realized the importance of educating adults and youth to become more accepting of others, and started her "Call Me Capable" in-service presentations, and developed the Call Me Capable GameTM. She inspires her audience with her humor and genuineness, and leaves them with an awareness that we are all more similar than different.

"Through the lessons of life, I have realized my goal to help others." Remember the words of Ralph Waldo Emerson, 'Life is a succession of lessons that must be lived to be understood.' I have, and continue to learn lessons of how to educate others to make them more aware of what I can do--what they can do too. Thus remember to Call Me Capable, and Yourself More Capable.”

- Carol Leish,


September 1, 2013   Ventura County Star

Life After Brain Injury: Camp helps brain injury survivors find independence

by Carol Leish

Following a brain injury, most survivors need assistance putting their lives back together or, more often, building new lives around their disability.

This is where Life After Brain Injury comes into play. Designed for the way brain injury survivors live and learn, the organization works one on one with survivors, helping them identify unmet needs and/or goals and then helps them to achieve success.

Life After Brain Injury, which also aids family caregivers to learn how to be more resilient and avoid caregiver burnout, will be holding its second annual Brain Injury Camp on Oct. 4-6 at the American Jewish University, Brandeis-Bardin Conference Center in Simi Valley.

"Because each brain injury is unique," said Cherie Phoenix, executive director of the nonprofit organization, "it's a customized and time-intensive process. But, there are some commonalities among survivors, such as poor memory and fatigue, that can be addressed in a group setting."

So Phoenix began the Brain Injury Camp as a way to educate and train dozens of survivors in a single weekend.

The camp is "grounded in the independent living philosophy of peer mentoring, informed consumer choice and full inclusion in the community," she said.

Bob and Sharron Kilpatrick, whose son, Rod, had a traumatic brain injury 15 years ago, said that the camp gives family caregivers like them "good insight about how others face the same obstacles as our son does and a chance to meet others and compare ways to overcome those obstacles."

The Kilpatrick family, including Rod's brothers and aunt, helped support last year's camp and are doing so again this year by organizing fundraisers and volunteering at camp.

"The total budget for Brain Injury Camp is about $30,000 and we are grateful to have received a grant from the Wood-Claeysens Foundation for survivor scholarships," Phoenix said.

Since the average brain injury survivor lives on a low, fixed income, survivors are asking their friends and family to sponsor them to help defray camp fees.

Agencies such as Independent Living Resource Center, state Department of Rehabilitation, Coast Caregiver Resource Center, Centre for Neuro Skills, Casa Colina, Life After Brain Injury and the founder of Call Me Capable will be presenting at camp.

Phoenix also mentions that the community nonprofits and agencies that present the workshops generously donate their time and expertise to create an informative and affordable weekend. Brain Injury Camps cost $250 per person, all-inclusive (includes lodging for two nights, all meals, activities, workshops and materials).

"Once we reach half-capacity, we'll offer our 'daytimer' program for folks who want to attend workshops and activities without sleeping over," Phoenix said.

Deadline for registering and paying for camp is Sept. 15. The deadline for scholarship applications has already closed and recipients will be notified by Thursday.

"Brain Injury Camp is equal parts work and play," Phoenix said, adding, "we offer social activities as well, including a mixer and a movie night."

Last year, the band Chandler Station performed and campers watched the movie "50 First Dates," in which Drew Barrymore’s character has a traumatic brain injury.

This year’s keynote speaker at the camp is Patrick Larimore, a former UCLA linebacker who stopped playing football after sustaining his seventh concussion.

"He gave up his lifelong dream of an NFL career to preserve his cognitive well-being and healthy family dynamics," Phoenix said.

Life After Brain Injury is a nonprofit organization and all donations are tax-deductible. It accepts in-kind donations from community merchants (gift baskets, gift certificates, merchandise) for the camp’s Sunday drawing. All donors' names will be printed on the camp T-shirt and recognized in the camp program.

For more information, contact Life After Brain Injury at 490-8211 or by email at

- Carol Leish,


July 27, 2013   Ventura County Star

The Arc of Ventura County: Supporting independence since 1954

by Carol Leish

The Arc of Ventura County's main focus is to ensure people with intellectual and developmental disabilities are included and are participating in their community, according to Patty Schulz, the organization's CEO.

The Arc mainly works with adults over age 22 in the cities of Camarillo, Ojai, Oxnard, Simi Valley, Santa Paula and Ventura. In Newbury Park, it helps teenagers and young adults from age 12 to 22.

Schulz worked for The Arc for more than eight years, before becoming its CEO this year. She came to the organization with more than 20 years experience in human resources and seven years of nonprofit management experience. Before joining The Arc, she worked for a credit counseling service.

The Arc was founded in 1954 by a group of parents who wanted to improve the lives of their children. Today, it has 730 chapters across the United States and is the largest grass-roots organization that advocates for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

Someone qualifies for Arc services in Ventura County through the Tri-Counties Regional Center at 1-800-322-6994.

"We support people in how they learn, live, work and play," Schulz said. "We are here to support people in an independent life of their choosing and will continue in that effort."

The Arc adopted a new logo in September 2012, and it was officially launched in April.

"The logo shape is called 'The Catalyst' and reflects our embracing nature and is symbolic of how we support independence," she said, adding that the tag line is "Achieve with us."

The changes Schulz sees ahead for the local Arc chapter include implementing plans that started under former CEO Fred Robinson’s direction: exploring the next generation of services for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, making advances in technology and ensuring people with disabilities can use these technologies.

To learn more about The Arc, check out its website at www.arcvc.orgor call them at 805-650-8611.

- Carol Leish,


April 15, 2013   Ventura County Star

Disability ettiquette

by Carol Leish

As an advocate for people with physical, mental and learning disabilities, (challenges) I was glad to see Berry focus on the proper ways to assist people with physical challenges. I agree with her that there are ways to make the physically challenged more comfortable in various situations.

It's important to realize that you don't have to worry about using everyday phrases in conversation with people who have visual or hearing challenges, Berry wrote.

Thus, use various statements about vision, even about 3D movies, with me, even with my visual challenges. Don't assume that I can't drive, or that I automatically have a handicapped parking decal.

Berry also explained not to finish sentences or interrupt people with speech challenges. I can definitely relate to this with my speech challenges and people getting too impatient to listen.

I also agree with Berry that it is best for someone not to mentioned an individual's challenges, unless that person talked about them within the course of the conversation. Thus, remember the importance of proper ways of acting around me and other people with physical challenges.

- Carol Leish,



January 27, 2013   Ventura County Star

Leish: Strategies for coping with teasing

by Carol Leish

Teasing is an unfortunately common occurrence in schools, especially elementary and middle schools. Dealing with teasing is important to manage school emotionally, intellectually and academically.

Coping strategies for it are important, so that teasing does not escalate into bullying. That even makes me wonder: What is the difference between teasing and bullying and how do we stop both of them?

Because of having my own speech and visual disabilities (challenges), I know too well what it means to grow up being "different" from other children.

When I was 10 months old I had a head injury as a result of a car accident caused by a drunken driver. As a result, I've dealt with speech, visual, coordination challenges and depression most of my life. The speech is a little slow and slurred, my left eye is a lazy eye and only has a little peripheral vision. The right eye does fortunately see well enough to drive. As for coordination, the right side of my body is stronger than the left side. Depression has followed me most of my life.

I have struggled most of my life with my challenges, and teasing and bullying have been a big part of that.

Fortunately, I have learned some coping strategies that have helped me in difficult situations.

Insist on being included

When I was in first grade I had to wear a patch over my right eye to try to strengthen the left eye. It didn't work. I remember just a little about being teased then. I was mainly left out of activities.

It's important for the teacher to include all students in activities. Let your teacher know this, and enlist the help of your parent if necessary to make sure the teacher follows through.

Focus on what you do well

Throughout school, including college, I got teased because of my voice. That hurt me emotionally.

In high school and college I did more writing to show people how bright I really was. Being graded poorly in physical education, art and handwriting in elementary school was hard. I focused on what I could do well.

Making friends was a challenge. In high school and college I did have adaptive physical education to make it easier on me while continuing to excel in writing where I could show my strengths.

Remind people to never assume

People are too quick to assume that I've been in special education. They don't realize that adaptive physical education is nonacademic. Being teased for having a limp is unfair. Kids need to realize that respecting people's feelings is important to get away from teasing.

Just because my left eye wanders, don't assume I am not paying attention. It's OK to remind people of this. They need to realize they should never assume to know the reason for a person's behavior just because the person is different.

Humor is a good coping strategy

In college, by focusing on my capabilities instead of my challenges, I began to realize that other people teasing, or even the next cruel step of bullying, was done because of being unaware and making fun of what they do not know. Ignoring it or even being humorous about a teasing situation is important.

Educate others

Education is important to eradicate prejudice and teasing and bullying. My purpose of educating others to become more informed of what people with physical/learning/emotional challenges can do, instead of what they can't do, is an important goal.

I frequently lecture at schools around California to help students understand that different is OK. Realize that we all have capabilities. Let's accentuate them.


May 23, 2008   Ventura County Star

Dear Capable Column

by Carol Leish

Q: Dear Capable,
It seems that people are afraid, or uncomfortable with anyone that is different from them. How can we break down these barriers and celebrate our differences?

A: Dear Concerned 
Open communication is the first step to breaking down barriers of people who are different due to having a disability. Realizing that we are all more similar than different is essential.

Q: Dear Capable,
A friend of mine got in a serious car accident and lost one leg. What would be your first piece of advice now that he will be a disabled person for the first time in his life?

A: Dear DL,
I'm sorry to hear about your friend losing a leg in a car accident. My first piece of advice to him would be that he can possibly accommodate to his disability by eventually using a prosthetic.

Q: Dear Capable,
Hi. I'm a person with a speech disability, with no mental problems. I graduated from high school, have a work history, and have taken some advanced level classes in community college. What do you recommend people do when they have been discriminated against at job interviews?

A: Dear Jim,
I'm sorry to hear that you've been discriminated against when looking for work. Besides mentioning your speech disability, do you focus on your abilities and what you could bring to the job for the potential employer? Accentuating the positive is important.

I would not recommend bringing a legal case against the company or trying to secretly videotape the interview. This would be expensive and cause acrimonious feelings.

--The Dear Capable column is written by Carol Leish, motivation speaker, writer and trainer, with over 10 years experience in teaching and working with social service agencies. Visit her website at:

May 5, 2008   Ventura County Star

Dear Capable Column

by Carol Leish

Q: Dear Capable,
I am wondering if their is a social group for teens and adults with mental challenges in Ventura County, CA?
--wanting to involve others

Yes. The Happy Friends Club meets regularly in Camarillo, CA. The club is for older teens and adults with physical and/or mental challenges. The activities include, arts/crafts, guest speakers, and recreational activities. For further information, including dates and times of meetings, please call, (805) 816-2319.

Q: Dear Capable,
What can I do, as a support staff person taking care of people with disabilities, when my company has a different perspective of assisting thse people that doesn't agree with the quality of care that I feel thse people should be receiving?

A: Dear Perplexed,
I can sense your concern and passion in working with people with disabilities. I can tell that you want them to get the utmost quality of care available.

I would start with writing out your concerns and going to your supervisor with positive suggestions of ways to improve the working enviornment and atmosphere for the clients that you work with.

Q: Dear Capable,
I've been getting depressed lately. How can I improve my mood?

A: Dear Sad,
Depression could have many different causes. It could be situational or even biological.

I would first suggest that you see your doctor in order to see how you are doing physically. He/she can also assess how you are doing psychologically and can possibly refer you to a mental health specialialist.

Excercise and good nutrition are also beneficial in helping to improve mood. I hope that you are feeling better soon.

--The Dear Capable column is written by Carol Leish, motivation speaker, writer and trainer, with over 10 years experience in teaching and working with social service agencies. Visit her website at:

April 6, 2008   Ventura County Star

Dear Capable Column

by Carol Leish

Q: Dear Capable,
I have a close friend who has Multiple Sclerosis and is in a wheelchair all the time. When we go places, I want to push her in the wheelchair, but I'm not sure if she feels like that makes her more handicapped. What should I do?

A: Dear Friend,
Multiple Sclerosis (also called "MS") is a disease marked by batches of hardened tissues in the brain and/or spinal cord. It can result in partial or complete paralysis or muscular twitching.

Is the wheelchair battery operated? Have you asked your friend how she perceives being pushed in the wheelchair? Her attitude might be that she wants to be able to do as much as she can on her own in order to be independent.

Q: Dear Capable,
My husband is hard of hearing and I have a very soft voice. We fight all the time because he can't hear me and I end up yelling. He wears a hearing aid, but it doesn't seem to help. Should I just keep yelling, or should he learn to look at me (to read my lips) when I speak?

A: Dear Wife,
I sense your frustration in being able to communicate with your husband. I would first suggest that he sees an audioligist and get another evaluation done. Maybe a different type of hearing aid would work better. Yes, learning to read lips would be helpful.

Q: Dear Capable,
I have a speech impediment. Why do people assume that i have a hearing problem, too?

A: Dear Annoyed,
It seems to be automatic for people to connect speech and hearing together. Tell people that your hearing is just fine. That will change misperceptions.

--The Dear Capable column is written by Carol Leish, motivation speaker, writer and trainer, with over 10 years experience in teaching and working with social service agencies. Visit her website at:

March 31, 2008   Ventura County Star

Dear Capable Column

by Carol Leish

Q: Dear Capable,
I read with interest your column in YourNews today. I sincerely hope that you address the issues of people with chemical sensitivities. Those of us who have been injured due to toxic exposures to chemicals need popular recognition of our situations Multiple Chemical Sensitivity (MCS) is an American's with Disability Act (ADA) recognized disability, yet many discount our sensitivities and inabilities to engage in the life we had previous to our toxic exposure. Thank you

A: Dear MB,
I sense your frustration that others' misunderstand MCS and don't realize that it is covered by the ADA. Some forms of MCS may be caused due to ventilation and air quality issues; construction; and, remodeling and cleaning issues. Realize that there are numerous products that can be used to accommodate people with limitations. Various accommodations can be found at

Q: Dear Capable,
My six-year-old grandson has been diagnosed as autistic. Will you be talking about this kind of disability in the future?
--Loving Grandma

A: Dear Loving Grandma,
Yes, I will be disussing autism. I can tell your concerned about others' being able to understand what autism is. I'm glad to hear that your grandson has such a loving grandma.

Autistic children have difficulties with social interaction, display problems with verbal and nonverbal communication, and display repetitive behavior. Even though their is no cure for autism, symptoms improve with treatment and age. For more information, contact the Autism Society of America at:

Q: Dear Capable,
I'm in my 80's now and I use a cane to walk. Why do people assume that I can't see, even though I drive and can see 20/20?

A: Dear EF,
Society is still not realizing that the population is aging. Ageism, which can include not being taken seriously, is deameaning.

I would ask people directly, why do you ask about my vision? That way they would have to account for their assumption.

--The Dear Capable column is written by Carol Leish, motivation speaker, writer and trainer, with over 10 years experience in teaching and working with social service agencies. Visit her website at:

March 18, 2008   Ventura County Star

Dear Capable Column

by Carol Leish

Q: Dear Capable,
How is your column different from Dear Abby and Annie's Mailbox?

A: The Dear Capable Column will focus on issues related to diabilities/ abilities of people with handicaps.

It will stress why people are more similar than different and how to accomodate and improvise to various situations.

Q: Dear Capable,
What make you the authority on writing this column? How will the column improve the community?

A: Because I have my own visual and speech challenges. I am able to emphathize with other with issues and people with disabilities.

The column will enhance attitudes in the community to be more supportive of people with physical/learning and/or mental disabilities.

Q: Dear Capable,
Do you view yourself as handicapped? How can I contact you with my own questions?

A: I view myself as physically challenged; that has a better connotation than handicap or disability.

E-mail your question/concerns to Dear Capable at

--The Dear Capable column is written by Carol Leish, motivation speaker, writer and trainer, with over 10 years experience in teaching and working with social service agencies. Visit her website at:

July 10, 2011 Ventura County Star

Oxnard woman conquers disabilities

by Alicia Doyle

The victim of a drunken driver when she was riding in a car at 10 months old, Carol Leish has struggled with speech and vision challenges caused by brain stem trauma most of her life.

Now 48, the Oxnard resident with a master's degree in education and counseling from CSU San Bernardino hopes to serve as a positive role model by focusing on her capabilities and the motto: "I can succeed and I will succeed."

"I draw my strength mainly from my own ideas of continuing to persevere and to do my best," Leish said. "Dad has continuously told me to do my best. Relatives say anything is possible."

On Thursday, Leish will discuss the importance of disability awareness at the Ventura County Professional Women's Network. "I will also discuss famous people with disabilities and the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990."

The event, which will begin at 5:30 p.m. with networking, will take place at the Wedgewood Banquet Center at the Buenaventura Golf Course in Ventura.

"Today, I still face the challenges of being misunderstood because of the way my voice sounds — people are too quick to assume I am more disabled than I am," Leish said.

The biggest misunderstanding "is that people assume since I have a speech disability, I either have a hearing problem or a learning disability or am developmentally disabled. The reality is my hearing is very acute since it overcompensates for the visual loss."

With a bachelor's degree in human development and a master's in education, Leish taught elementary-level special education classes for several years in San Bernardino. She also worked for the Ventura County Behavioral Health Department for two years.

One of her accomplishments is the creation of a children's game, Call Me Capable. First published in 2002 by Franklin Learning Systems, the game's objective is to help players become more aware of the capabilities and strengths of people with disabilities.

"It is a discussion game dealing with disability awareness for third- through ninth-graders," said Leish, whose endeavor is online at

Her plans include writing a book about herself and others who have suffered a head injury.

The ultimate goal of her talk "is to urge people to realize that those with disabilities have many capabilities. Focus on the capabilities," Leish said. "This topic is so important since the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990. People have been becoming more aware of what people with disabilities can do in their personal and professional lives."

For more information, visit or Contact Leish at (805) 988-6160 or


August 24, 2010 Ventura County Star

Drunken driver victim now motivational speaker

by Alicia Doyle

The victim of a drunk driver when she was riding in a car as a child, Carol Leish has struggled most of her life with speech and vision challenges caused by brainstem trauma.

Now 47, the Oxnard resident with a master's degree in education and counseling from CSU San Bernardino is a motivational speaker and distributor of a game that offers a fun way to learn how to accept people with disabilities.

Leish offers her Call Me Capable services to schools, nonprofits and clubs. The Call Me Capable program features two components: motivational talks and a board game that helps students understand disabilities.

Leish said the presentations offer unique insight into how I've dealt with visual and speech challenges most of my life.

The Call Me Capable Game is geared toward students in grades three to nine. "I feel that adults who can imagine being young can also enjoy the game," she said.

The game first published in 2002 by Franklin Learning Systems involves a discussion about physical, mental and learning challenges. The objective is to help players become more aware of the capabilities and strengths of individuals with disabilities, and "to realize that we are all more similar than different," Leish said.

"The Call Me Capable Game has four categories," she explained. "The Emotion, Experience and Imagination cards have open-ended questions about various disabilities. The Challenge cards have true/false or multiple-choice questions about issues related to disabilities and about famous people who have/had disabilities."

For instance, if a player draws an Emotion card, a question could be, "How can someone without a disability be sensitive toward a person with a disability?" Or, if they draw an Experience card, they might have to answer, "How can a person with a vision problem use a computer?" If they pull an Imagination card, they might get the question, "Imagine you have a disability and someone asks, "What's wrong with you?" How would you react?"

Players earn points for answering questions.

Leish was inspired to develop the Call Me Capable Game while she was working on a graduate degree in education at CSU San Bernardino.

"One of my teachers showed another game to us," Leish recalled. "It was the Thinking, Feeling, Doing Game by Dr. Richard Gardner. I patterned the game to be similar to it."

For Leish, the biggest stigma she faces in life "is someone assuming that I may be developmentally disabled or hard of hearing because of my speech disability. The reality is that the intellect is definitely intact," she said, noting that she maintained a 3.6 grade-point average while earning her master's degree. "And when people hear my vocabulary, that changes the assumption about my intellect. And, my hearing overcompensates for my visual disability. So, I definitely do not have a hearing problem."

The biggest misconception about people living with disabilities "is mainly that they cannot live independently because of the myth that they are worse off than they actually are," Leish said. "The reality is that people with disabilities can and do lead normal and independent lives, just like people without disabilities."

Call Me Capable is important in diminishing stigma in today's times "because a better awareness and understanding of people with disabilities is occurring," Leish added. "Since the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act in 1990, there has been a greater interest toward issues related to people with disabilities."

For more information, visit or Contact Leish at (805) 988-6160 or

Carol Leish of Oxnard created a board game, Call Me Capable, after developing the idea while earning her master's. She markets the game as an educational tool to schools and nonprofit organizations.


May 20, 2009 Ventura BREEZE

Don't Call Her Anything But Capable!

by Nanci Cone

When most people meet Carol Leish, they often assume, incorrectly, that she is mentally handicapped, hearing impaired or just plain different. Nothing could be further from the truth. Carol graduated from California State University in San Bernadino with a 3.6 GPA, earning her Masters degree in Education.

Because Carol sustained severe injuries at age 10 months when a drunk driver smashed her family's vehicle leaving her with severe brain trauma that left her with blindness in her left eye and speech difficulties, people make cruel and incorrect assumptions.

Fortunately, Carol is a truly plucky individual with a terrific sense of humor who can shatter people's perceptions with a few well-placed comments. She provides consulting services and presentations throughout the community to organizations such as the Ventura Unified School District, Ventura County Behavioral Services, ARC/Community services, and the County of Ventura's Employment Services while winning several awards along the way.

She has devoted her life to teaching physically, mentally and learning challenged individuals and is also an active member of Temple Beth Torah here in Ventura. As an advocate for people with disabilities, Carol is a tireless and eloquent speaker who reaches people through humor and honesty. She comments, "Through the lessons of life, I have realized my goal to help others. I have, and continue to learn lessons of how to educate others to make them more aware of what I can do-and what they can do too."

In 1987, while working as a substitute teacher, she began creating a one-hour discussion board game called "Call Me Capable" that provide open-ended questions about the challenges that people with disabilities face. The game, broken into four categories was finally ready to be launched in 2002 and "is intended to be a fun learning experience while, at the same time, fostering more acceptance and empathy for people with disabilities," according to Carol.

Players move around the board picking cards and discussing the questions posed on the cards.

o Emotion cards ask players how they would feel if they if they interacted with people with disabilities or had to live with a specific disability.

o Experience cards ask players to discuss the practical aspects of living with various disabilities.

o Imagination cards ask players to imagine situations in which the player has a disability or wants to help a person with a disability.

o Challenge cards are multiple-choice questions that add to the player's knowledge about specific disabilities, ways for disabled people to improve their lives, and famous people with disabilities.

The game is designed primarily for educating students who are not disabled, although disabled students enjoy playing immensely. The game has two sets of cards, one for elementary students, and one set with more challenging questions that can be used for middle and high school students. This game has been successfully used with many groups of adults, children and teens. The game is intended to be a fun learning experience and there are no wrong answers.

For purchasing inquiries, to learn more about the program or to schedule her as a motivational speaker, email Carol at or visit her website at


Masters of Success
by Ivan Misner, Ph.D. & Don Morgan M.A
Entrepreneur Press, 2004


by Linda McCarthy

This is a story about overcoming the odds, about doing exactly what others have said could not be done. It is a story about tragedy andprejudice turning to triumph and enlightenment.

Carol Leish has been overcoming the odds ever since she was ten months old, when a car accident left her with slurred speech, permanent hand tremors, and blindness in one eye. In 1963, the family a drunk driver hit from behind Volkswagen Beetle. This was before seat belts and infant car seats laws, and baby Carol was placed in the back storage well while her two older brothers rode in the backseat. Her mother and brothers suffered only minor injuries, but since Carol was in the far back, she took the brunt of the collision. She suffered severe brain stem trauma and was unconscious for ten days. When she finally awoke, the doctors said she would never function as a "normal" person.

Just When You Think It's All Over, It's a Good Time to Start As Leish grew up, family and friends treated her as just one of the kids. Her parents did not feel the need to place her in special education classes, thinking it would only slow her down. They wanted her to live up to the capabilities they knew she possessed, to develop the courage and confidence needed to lead a productive life.

As we are all aware, a child who is "different" will suffer socially. Leish grew up with the usual teasing and mimicking most kids suffer, but hers was magnified many times over. Friendships were few, hard-won, and far between, but because her upbringing molded her "capable" attitude, she kept her focus on the positive things in her life and valued the few friends she had.

As if her life challenges weren't difficult enough, her mom died suddenly from a serious illness just before Carol Leish's 14th birthday. This took its toll on her, and depression was added to her list of challenges. She began to see a counselor, who encouraged her to develop humor as a tonic against depression and negativity.

In high school, Leish challenged herself physically by taking piano lessons, working on hand control while learning to adapt chords to her playing capabilities. She made the junior varsity swim team and soon became the most improved team member. She began working with counselors from the state's department of rehabilitation, who put her through various hand-eye coordination tests, but she just couldn't pass them. When she started thinking about college, she was advised against it-even though she had never had any difficulty academically.

The Greatest Pleasure in Life Is Doing What Others Say You Cannot Do
Attitude is 100 percent of everything we do in life, and Leish's "capable" attitude kicked in once again. Ignoring the rehab agency's advise, she enrolled in college. Hand tremors made writing virtually impossible, so she took notes in class by recording lectures and using a portable typewriter. Proving the experts wrong once again, Leish graduated from college with a B average. She went on to earn her master's degree in education and counseling from California State University, Sand Bernardino, graduating with a GPA of 3.6.

Leish says many people mistake her condition for cerebral palsy, a condition characterized by impaired muscle control due to brain damage, usually at or prior to birth. They also assume she is dear because she has slow, slurred speech or that she isn't paying attention because her left eye wanders.

Assumptions like these prompted Leish to become a disability consultant, launching her business, Call Me Capable In-Services, in 1997. She realizes that people genuinely want to be helpful and courteous towards the disabled, so her program teaches them to be more sensitive and to broaden their perspectives. "My main goal," she says, "is to eradicate the prejudice that people have about people with physical disabilities.

I hope that education in this area will help people to be more comfortable working with the disabled, and all of us will be more productive." Leish notes, however, that nondisabled people aren't the only ones who may need to changes their attitudes. People with disabilities also need to focus on possibilities rather than limitations.

Focusing on those possibilities, Leish continues to gain recognition and has received several awards for her community achievement in promoting mutual understanding and respect of others. Among these awards are: Top Outstanding Young American (California Finalist), 1998, from the U.S. Junior Chamber of Commerce; Outstanding Young Californian, 1998, from the California Junior Chamber of Commerce; and the Spirit of Networking Award, 1997-1998, from the Ventura County Professional Women's Network.

The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of the dream
-Eleanor Roosevelt

Carol Leish has trained her slow, quivery voice to hold the attention of audiences at businesses, schools, hospitals, clubs, and nonprofit organizations. She invites audience members to join her on her personal journey of coping with visual and speech challenges. She uses her wry wit and genuiness to deal with this sensitive subject in a way that inspires and educates the listener. Ironically, one of her clients in the very same state rehabilitation agency that, back in high school, advised her to forget college.

An important part of Leish's presentation is Call Me Capable, a game she developed in college while earning her master's degree. The game is actually a noncompetitive discussion started for both kids and adults. Players move around a board that prompts them to select cards with thought-provoking questions such as "How can you enjoy dancing if you cannot hear?" The game is both a fun experience and a way of fostering acceptance and empathy for people with disabilities.

It was Leish's dream to get this game published, and in November 2001, that dream came true. Through a networking connection, she was introduced to Franklin Learning Systems, which gave her the green light to get Call Me Capable on the national market.

God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.
-Serenity Prayer, Reinhold Niebuhr

Leish sees every challenge as an opportunity to find constructive solutions, ways to improvise, and the humor in each situation. There are many ironies in Leish's life: even with depression, she went out into the community and networked; with only one good eye and shaky hands, she went further in school than 90 percent of the population; and with her slurred slow speech, she has become a motivational speaker.

She draws strength and inspiration from some of her favorite historic heroes. In the Bible, Exodus 4:10-16 tells that Moses had a speech impediment but delivered one of history's strongest messages about life. Helen Keller, who was blind and deaf; said, "I thank God for my handicaps, for through them I have found myself, my work, and my God." Thomas Edison had a learning disability; Abe Lincoln suffered from depression; and Beethoven was deaf when he composed his Ninth Symphony.

Leish accepts that God has an important mission for her, too. "Through the lessons of life, I have realized my goal to help other," she says. Ralph Waldo Emerson said, "Life is a succession of lessons that must be lived to be understood." I have learned and continue to learn lessons that can educate others, making them more aware of everyone's capabilities. Thus, remember to call me capable and yourself more capable."


December 16, 2002   Ventura County Star

Call her capable: Leish hustles with chutzpah

by Beverly Kelley

What is the best-selling board game in the world? If you guessed Monopoly, you must be sitting pretty with a hotel on Boardwalk. Two-hundred million Monopoly sets have flown off store shelves since 1935. Monopoly is currently available in 26 languages -- including Croatian and Icelandic.

This holiday season, however, Oxnard native Carol Leish would like you to consider her board game,  Call Me Capable, ( as you select the perfect present for your favorite teacher. The purpose of the educational game, according to the 40-year-old Leish, is to eliminate or eradicate some of the prejudice commonly exhibited toward people with disabilities.

Leish knows of what she speaks. In 1963, at the tender age of 10 months, she was slumbering serenely in the back of her family's VW when a drunken driver careened into the vehicle and left the infant girl with brain stem trauma. Unconscious for 10 days, she awakened to permanent damage on the right side of her brain, blindness in her left eye, and speech difficulties that continue to this day. Even after years of therapy, thoughtless individuals presume that her slow, deliberate way of talking (even though every word is enunciated distinctly) is the result of hearing loss or, even more inaccurately (she's a whiz kid), mental retardation. She's even been asked, point blank, on more than one occasion, "What's wrong with you?"

Her antidote for the justifiable anger that boils up after such insensitive remarks is to just express amusement. While "I may be physically disabled," she says, some folks reveal themselves to be "disabled from the neck up." A rabid-to-the-max Star Trek fan (as the bumper of her car attests), she claims to have inherited her sense of humor from her father. It's obvious, however, that Leish has carefully cultivated a drollness that can only be described as deliciously wicked. Her wry wit has even worked itself into some multiple-choice questions found in Call Me Capable.

For example, "Some newer wheelchairs help disabled people get around by using a) electric motors, b) gasoline motors, c) jet engines, or d) mice on a treadmill" may not be politically correct, but it gives nondisabled players permission to laugh as they learn.

In study after study, education experts report that empathy is a particularly difficult concept to get across to students of any age. Call Me Capable poses open-ended questions that fire up players to reconsider preconceived ideas and knee-jerk responses. As they are invited to think about those who face physical, mental and learning challenges -- "If you go out to

dinner with a friend who is blind and the waiter asks you for your friend's order, what do you say?" -- Leish has discovered that the light eventually dawns.

When a financially challenged Charles B. Darrow showed the prototype of Monopoly to executives at Parker Bros., it was the height of the Depression. The assembled big shots unceremoniously rejected his game, citing 52 so-called "design errors." Darrow wasn't daunted.

Neither was Leish. Her bright idea arrived in 1987 while she was working on a master's degree in education and counseling at California State University, San Bernardino. As she toiled in the trenches as a substitute teacher, Call Me Capable started to evolve. The opportunity for further "field studies" arrived as a part of her in-service training for teachers, medical personnel, social workers and other professionals dealing with the disabled on a daily basis.

Finally, in 1997, when the game was as finely tuned as it was going to get, it was time for a marketing plan. As Zen practitioners will attest, "When the student is ready, the teacher arrives." Membership in the Ventura County Professional Women's Network provided her with the education and encouragement she needed to realize her heart's desire. The last duck to queue up was Franklin Learning Systems. Just in time for the yuletide season, the company ( stands ready, willing and able to distribute Call Me Capable worldwide via the Web.

Call Carol Leish "capable." "Irresistible, too," she adds impishly. Leish considers herself someone "who hustles with chutzpah," and hustle she does. Her first Call Me Capable royalty check has been duly framed and accorded a place of honor alongside a sparkling tiara, her VCPWN Spirit of Networking Award, and her recognition as an Outstanding Young American by the California Junior Chamber of Commerce.

All of us will face disability someday. Quite uninvited, it will arrive in various guises -- courtesy of old age. How will we want to be treated?

In 1970, Parker Bros. came out with the Braille edition of Monopoly. Interestingly enough, those who play Call Me Capable seem to find a new way of seeing.

Can't we make it a best seller, too?

-- Beverly Kelley, who writes every other Monday for The Star, is a professor in the Communication Department at California Lutheran University. Address e-mail to


January 22, 2002   Ventura County Star

Oxnard Woman Advocates Capability

by Maryanne Wardlaw

Call her capable, 39-year-old Carol Leish of Oxnard.

She has been persevering against the odds ever since a car accident damaged her vision and her speech as a child.

Now an advocate for the disabled, she has trained her slow, quivery voice to hold the attention of audiences around the county at regular presentations.

"My main goal," she said, "is to eradicate prejudice that people have about people with disabilities."

She tells people to focus on their own and others' capabilities-hence the name of her organization, Call Me Capable.

The moniker is also the name of a soon-to-be-released game Leish developed. The "game" is actually a noncompetitive discussion-starter.

Players select cards with thought-provoking questions such as, "How can you enjoy dancing if you could not hear?"

Leish began developing Call Me Capable when she was in graduate school at California State University, San Bernardino. She graduated in 1988 with a master's degree in education and counseling, but the game continued to be a work in progress.

"I still can't believe it will go national," said Leish, who concentrated on marketing the game for five years before getting a green light from Franklin Learning Systems in November 2001.

She hopes it will be available by the end of this year; she expects grade-schoolers, social workers and counselors to be its main audience.



October 20, 1999   Los Angeles Times

Playing the Disability Game the Right Way
Girl Scouts get a taste of Call Me Capable,
a board game designed to enhance sensitivity concerning the disabled

by Nancy Forest

OXNARD--Carol Leish taught 100 area Girl Scouts leaders something new last weekend about sensitivity when it comes to people with disabilities--all with a simple board game.

Leish, a disability consultant and Oxnard native, demonstrated the Call Me Capable Game, which she created, for the Girl Scout leaders from Ventura and Santa Barbara counties at a Southern California Leaderama on Saturday at Blackstock Junior High School.

"The one-hour discussion game provides open-ended questions about physical, mental and learning challenges," said Leish, 36. "The objective is to help players become more aware of the capabilities and strengths of individuals with disabilities."

Elizabeth Rockey, adult development and membership specialist for the Girl Scouts Tres Condados Council, and Leah Hayes, assistant executive director for the youth organization, also took part in the demonstration.

Leish said she demonstrates the game in small groups of children or adults. She usually splits people up into groups of five and challenges them with questions to earn points.

They can earn bonus points with the roll of the dice.

"The main theme of the game is that whether we have disabilities or not, we are more similar than different," Leish said. "It is all about being able to improvise or accommodate situations in different ways. The game is intended to be a fun learning experience that, at the same time, fosters more acceptance and empathy for people with disabilities."

The game includes cards in one of three categories: emotion, experience and imagination.

The emotion cards, for instance, ask the participate to "Describe how you would feel if you had to use a wheelchair for one year," or an experience card could ask the participant to "Imagine you started a new business. Would you hire a person with a disability?"

An imagination card might ask "What would you do as a teacher to help a student who has trouble writing in class?"

"The questions are open-ended and there are no right or wrong answers," Leish said. "It's meant to be a learning tool, not a game per se. It works best with individuals who are 10 years old and up because they are able to understand the questions and see themselves in other people's shoes."

For more information, contact Carol Leish at (805)988-6160.


July 28, 1999   Los Angeles Times

Using humor to change attitudes
Oxnard resident trains able-bodied people to sensitive to those with disabilities

by Nancy Forest

OXNARD--Carol Leish has made a career out of turning negative stereotypes about people into a positive affirmation of life through humor.

Since 1996, the Oxnard native has led classes called Call Me Capable, for teachers, social workers and other professionals who come into contact daily with people with disabilities.

"The in-service training teaches those who are not disabled to be more sensitive toward those coping with visual and speech disabilities, broaden their perspective and learn ways to maintain positive attitudes," the 36-year-old said.

Leish has been diagnosed with oral ataxia, which she acquired as a result of a head trauma sustained in a car accident in 1963 caused by a drunk driver when she was 10 months old. She said a neurologist said she suffered significant brain stem damage, leaving her with slurred speech and impaired vision, but no loss of awareness or intellect

Leish said many people mistake her condition for cerebral palsy, a condition characterized by brain damage usually at or prior to birth, or they assume she is deaf because she has slurred speech.

"For a portion of my life, I was angry because people we so quick to make assumptions about me," said Leish, who holds a bachelor's degree in human development and a master's degree in education and counseling from Cal State San Bernardino. "But through continued counseling and leading the in-service training, I've come to terms with my own abilities."

"I see myself as capable and other people as more capable. It has been a cathartic experience because I am able to help others and help myself."

She said awareness is the first step in dispelling misinformation.

"My work is important because there are many subtle and not-so-subtle forms of discrimination against the disabled during job interviews, for example," she said.

She said her counselor encouraged her to develop humor as a tonic against negative or insensitive comments from others.

"The more I've worked on my humor the quicker I've become at it," she said. "I want dry wit, not harsh sarcasm. I'm not aiming for raunchy or risqué. I want to be more Bob Hope than Don Rickles, or something in between."

Randy Dalton, a former probation social worker now serving as a core services specialist with Cal Works, said of Leish, "I think that it is incredible how she can turn negative attitudes into a positive. That's a great gift."

Donna Timlin, a deputy probation officer with Ventura County Probation since 1973 who is mildly hard of hearing, said at times, she has had people say to her, "What's the matter with you? Are you deaf?"

"No," she'll answer. "I just can't always hear the beginning and end of sentences."

Leish said she sees every challenge as an opportunity to find constructive solutions and tries to improvise and find the humor in every situation.

In 1998, Leish received the Spirit of Networking Award from the Ventura County Professional Woman's Network and the Outstanding Young American Award from the California Junior Chamber of Commerce.

Leish will speak at the Ventura Boy's & Girls Club August 6 and at a Girl Scout conference in San Diego Aug. 21.


August 10, 1999   Ventura County Star

Adjusting attitudes for a hamburger

by Kim Lamb Gregory

Ever since a drunk driver plowed into the car she was riding in when she was 10 months old, Carol Leish has wrestled with vision and speech challenges caused by brain stem trauma. Now at age 36, the Oxnard woman has to combat stereotypes, too.

Like the store cashier who gushed, "Remember, we all think that you're special here."

Yuk. Pretty nauseating for someone like Leish, who has physical challenges but whose IQ is intact.

"Having a physical disability doesn't mean the intellect is affected," she pointed out.

Attitudes like the cashier's regardless how well-meaning is what prompted Leish to become a disability consultant.

In the three years since Leish launched her consulting business, Call Me Capable, she has traversed Ventura County, giving speeches to groups of nondisabled people in order to increase awareness about the appropriate and respectful way to treat those with disabilities.

On July 26, she addressed a group of employees at Oxnard's CalWORKS, an organization that helps people on public assistance find jobs. When she speaks, she use humor and her first-hand experience of what it's like to be disabled in a society that sometimes doesn't understand.

Help for the nondisabled
When dealing with a person with a disability, Leish counsels, avoid making assumptions.

A sales clerk once began using American sign language upon hearing Leish's slow speech. "Just because I have a speech problem don't assume I have a hearing problem," she said.

Because her eyes tire easily, Leish learned to pace herself through college as she earned her teaching credential, and later on, when she became a teacher. Yet her attempts to accommodate her disability drew bias, both subtle and not-so-subtle.

"People think I'm not paying attention because my left eye wanders," Leish said, "or they think you're lazy or depressed because of leaving events early, when it's really eye fatigue."

Leish always kept an arsenal of quips handy. Like the one she wished she'd thought of for the clerk who assured Leish she was "special":

If I'm so special, where's my free hamburger?"

Disabled from the neck up
Nondisabled people aren't the only folks who may need an attitude adjustment. Some people with disabilities need to focus on possibilities rather than limitations, Leish said.

"We meet people who want to be handicapped and they're not," said Phyllis Dobbins, career services supervisor at CalWORKS in Oxnard.

They use it as a crutch," Leish said, nodding. "They're disabled from the neck up in their attitude."

One of Leish's favorite models of famous dialed people with positive attitudes is Helen Keller, who was blind and deaf. "I thank God for my handicaps," Keller said, "for through them, I have found myself, my work, and my God."

--Kim Lamb Gregory is a staff writer. You can e-mail her at


April 2002   VCPWN Focal Points

Continuing to Hustle With Chutzpah

by Carol Leish

Dreams do come true with a combination of persistence; chutzpah, luck and networking all rolled together as one.

This wonderful journey of networking started when I joined VCPWN in February of 1997. Soon after joining, someone suggested that I contact Milt Wright & Associates, Inc. in Chatsworth. They do organizational design, training and development along the lines on disability awareness that is my focus.

I figured that the best way to get to know someone at Milt Wright was to order a book from their catalog: The Job Placement ADA (Americans with Disabilities) Connection. After reading through part of the book, I planned on calling to get to know one of the workers. Milt Wright was doing their own marketing and Lynda Jean Groh, from Milt Wright called me. After talking on the phone every week for about two months, I talked Lynda Jean into meeting me for lunch in Thousand Oaks at Roxy's(my treat).

Through the development of a genuine and close friendship, Lynda Jean has also given me advice on ways of better marketing myself to the public. Image through brochures, folders and business cards is vital.

In 1999 my brother Alan, who I call my "wonderful web wizard," developed a website for me. I realized how many more people I could reach through the website. No geographic barriers! The website is at It has helped to add validity to what I do with providing more than either a brochure and/or a Resume could.

Through surfing the web, I am always amazed what a vast resource library it is! I found out through looking at Milt Wright & Associates, Inc. website at in May of 2001 that a conference was taking place in Oxnard in the early summer of 2001 about ways "Employees could Shine". I was able to come to the first morning presentation. Then at lunch, I met Dianne Owens, the Vice President of Curtis & Associates. Curtis & Associates cosponsored the event. They do employment communication consulting. With Diane, I talked about my disability awareness game.

Diane Owens and I kept in touch over the summer. She talked about me, my game and my website to Bryan Kuntz, who is the Assistant Director-Product Department for Curtis & Associates, Inc. in Nebraska. I was able to look at Curtis & Associates, Inc., website at

In September 2001,Diane Owens invited me to a breakfast and talk put on by Curtis & Associate, Inc. in Oxnard. After the Keynote talk, I was able to talk with Bryan Kuntz. I gave him a copy of the Call Me Capable© game rules and all the game questions. When I called Bryan in mid October, he said that he was forwarding my game material to Dr. Franklin Rubenstein in Connecticut of Franklin Learning Systems at

Then on November 1, I talked to Franklin and he said that he was very interested on working with me on the further production and eventual publication by the end of 2002 of the Call Me Capable Game ©.

Thus, what a difference a network makes! Continue to network. It does pay off! Dreams do come true.


January, 2002   VCPWN Focal Points

Sparkling as a Diamond while Walking Tall

by Carol Leish

"As we are liberated from our own
Fear, our presence automatically
Liberates others."
---Marianne Williamson

By starting her talk for VCPWN by asking, "How many of you consider yourself short?" Peggy O'Neil was able to emphasize that most of us would automatically think of how tall we are in inches. When she asked, "How many consider yourself to be big? Huge? Giganitic? She raised her own hand. Peggy stated that "You can all walk tall."

Throughout Peggy's inspirational talk, she emphasized the importance of "Inner Bigness," which is an important foundation for "Walking Tall." She was speaking from her own personal experience of being short of stature(3-feet-8-inches). She does not agree with Disneyland's ride that "It's a small world after all…"

Peggy told us how her physical challenges of being short of stature have been minor compared to the emotional challenges that she has been able to overcome through realizing her uniqueness. Thus, she is able to sparkle like a diamond.

Peggy talked about growing up and first realizing that at the age of seven she was not going to grow anymore. As a child she got teased a lot. As a teen she got excluded socially and romantically. And, as an adult, potential employers would see her height before they saw her job capabilities.

As a teen, Peggy got a camera. She developed a dark room and did photography as a summer job. By focusing on her strength, she was able to excel in photography and was accepted in the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena. She persevered, even though the camera and equipment was big. However, the dean of the school said that she wouldn't "succeed in the real world." Peggy said , The dean's negative viewpoint didn't shatter my dreams. That inner voice shattered my dreams."

Peggy lived in Hawaii for awhile; but was unhappy on the inside. She realized that her biggest handicap was her inner smallness (attitude), not her outer self (being short of stature). Peggy shared with us the two steps on the journey to gaining inner bigness.

She said that "even though we can't control what others' say to us, we can control what we say to ourselves."

This journey toward Walking Tall starts with 1) Silencing the critical voice. It's important to stop the critical voice in order to show your greatness.

Continuing on the journey of walking tall, Peggy said the importance of 2) Unveiling the diamond within.

Remember, according to Robert Frost, "The only way out is through…."on this continuous journey of life.

By Carol Leish


July, 2001   VCPWN Focal Points

Inventions by Women That Have Shaped Our World

by Carol Leish

"The world cannot afford the loss of the talents of half of its people(women) if we are to solve the many problems which beset us."
--Dr. Rosalyn Yallow, Nobel Prize winner, 1977

"An invention is something that is new and useful," according to VCPWN Keynote speaker, Susan Casey. "Or an invention can be an improvement of an existing product." She gave the example of Bounce, which was improved upon by Agnes McQuirry. By cutting slits into the Bounce, Ms. McQuirry improved Bounce as a fabric softener. Thus, she got a secondary patent.

In her talk, Susan discussed that a trademark is "a cheaper way to get name recognition for your product." She said that for about $400 you could get a trademark to protect the name or image of your product (such as "Liquid Paper"!) Susan mentioned that a patent (which costs close to $2000) gives the inventor the right to be the only one who can sell an invention. (Speaker's note: A trademark is good for as long as a company is in business; a patent can be good for up to 20 years.)

We saw an interesting slide show of women invetors who invented things for various reasons. We learned that women invent what they need. This was exemplified with the inventions of computers to help children learn by Barbara Thompson, who invented the Tutor Clock and the Tutor Money Machine. As a second-grader, Emily Strubinger invented a Porch Policeman so that her pumpkin wouldn't be stolen. This was a button alarm that was placed under the pumpkin.

Women also invent in order to solve problems. Mary Anderson, while on vacation in New York, invented a windshield wiper for a streetcar in 1903. Grace Hopper developed the computer language COBOL, for which she was inducted into the Engineering and Science Hall of Fame. In order to help protect material from stains, Patsy Sherman invented Scotchguard for 3M.

Another reason that inspired women to invent was to make the world a safer place by improving things. Harriet Tracy got a patent in 1890 for developing a safety device for elevators. In 1898 Josephine Cochran invented the dishwasher. A card game, with questions about family relationships called Family Treeditions, was invented by Mildred Smith in 1980.

Helping to cure sickness was another reason for women to invent. Gertrude Elion, along with her research partner, Dr. George Hitchings, developed drugs that fight childhood leukemia. Their research also lead to the discovery of AZT, which helps patients with AIDS. For this achievement, they were awarded the Nobel Prize in Medicine or Physiology. The research of Dr. Rosalyn Yallow, with her partner Dr. Solomon Berson, led them to receive the Nobel Prize in Medicine or Physiology too. Dr. Yallow worked on a way of detecting the presence or absence of vitamins, hormones, drugs, enzymes or viruses within blood or saliva which could lead to the early detection of many diseases.

Through her inspiring talk, Susan Casey took us on an exciting journey of women inventing for various reasons. This journey started with the desire and imagination to turn ideas into real inventions. Thus, we now know about various women who have changed ideas into actual inventions.


March, 2001   VCPWN Focal Points


by Carol Leish

"If your life were a movie, what would it be called?" asked our speaker Judith Parker Harris. By viewing our life as a movie, such as "Gone with the Wind" or "Turning Point," we began to realize how we could view the various results and changes in our life.

We could also write down five turning points in our lives and view what happened one year, five years and 10 years later after the turning points.

In 1985, Judith realized the importance of the C-Path of Courage, Creativity and Choice when she was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. Instead of being passive and just listening to the prognosis of the doctor regarding multiple sclerosis and that she would end up using a wheelchair, Judith entered her own turning point of change.

Judith said, "I changed everything about how I lived my life, since I refused to believe what the doctors said would happen to me. I was not going to wait for someone to come along and make me all better." These changes included making changes in her nutrition, exercise, who she socialized with, and what she did for a living.

Through having the courage, creativity and choice to change, and by actually making a change, Judith started a company called Health Esteem International. She wrote a book. And, she met her soul mate(she has been married 13 years.) Through these changes she has been healthier and happier than she ever was.

"Regarding feeling," according to Judith, "we are used to knowing how we are feeling physically but not how we are feeling emotionally." She stressed the importance of recognizing and dealing with our feelings in order to reach our dreams.

Having tools to conquer a crisis and to target and change what is holding us back in life is essential, according to Judith. She said that it is important to know our emotional family tree. Learning to balance our life is also significant Listening to ourselves for answers is vital. Remembering to exercise is also beneficial.

Targeting change also occurs through being able to start to play. Knowing and sharing our life stories is vital. According to Alice Deville, "Every relationship that we have with another person reflects the relationship that we have with ourselves." Remembering also the importance of making a commitment to our true feelings is essential.

Thus, through change, "we develop a sense of purpose, peace and pleasure that brings us joy," according to Judith. "Stay connected to your feelings and passions and if the shoe fits, wear it."

Judith has offered to teach her eight-week Health-Esteem Program in Ventura, since interest was expressed after her inspirational talk for VCPWN. She would come to Ventura if a group of at least 10 people wants the program, and she is willing to give a scholarship to the person willing to provide their home as a meeting location. The Program consists of eight group meetings and four private coachings (done either by phone or in person).

Judith explains, "The Health-Esteem Program helps you achieve results on the project of your choice, and activates your dreams while allowing you the vision and freedom to grow and change." Call Lana Antione at (805) 659-3123 or Judith Parker Harris at (310) 858-1272 if you are interested.


July 27, 2000   Ventura County Star

Who knows how to listen
(The Best of Everything Column)

by Carol Leish

Watch out for my trained tape recorder, which happily will record each and every word that is said.

It is quiet and it is a patient listener. Even when words ramble on and on, it continues to listen.

I've been relying on my tape recorder for many situations. I consider it to be like a faithful friend who is dependable.

In college in San Bernardino in the '80s, I relied on my tape recorder to record lectures in my various classes. The tape recorder was able to take the notes verbatim.

This was essential, especially when learning quotes.

When listening to what my tape recorder had recorded, I would be able to take my own notes.

What a deal! I got to hear the lectures twice. Great study technique.

Thus, I thank my tape recorder in helping me to attain both my B.A. and M.A. degrees at CSU, San Bernardino.

Over the past four years, while being a member of the Ventura County Professional Women's Network(VCPWN), I have been putting my tape recorder to good use again.

It listens attentively and records precisely as some of the key note speakers give their presentations at VCPWN meetings.

The bonus for me is that I get to listen to the presentations twice. The second time that I listen, at home, I transcribe the notes. Then I write an article about the presentation for the VCPWN newsletter.

I appreciate my reliable tape recorder friend who faithfully helps me as I continue to write and write and write. -Carol Leish is a Disability Consultant, speaker and writer. She lives in Oxnard.

-Is they're a gizmo in your life that you really love? Readers are invited to submit essays on high or low-tech gadgets that make their lives easier or just more fun. The Star will pay $50 for published essays. Submissions should be addressed to "The Best of Everything" c/o Roger Harris, Ventura County Star, P.O. Box 6711, and Ventura, CA 93006;or emailed to


May 2000   VCPWN Focal Points

Focusing on Strengths Leads to Balance

by Carol Leish

How do people effectively communicate given the tremendous differences between them? How do you attain balance through strengths?

As an organizational management consultant, Katherine Stackpoole facilitated a fun game at VCPWN to show people how we all create different synergistic effects. By focusing on these six strengths, as a group we became more aware of how effectively we used them within our businesses and personal lives.

Through playing with cards, VCPWN members and visitors enjoyed a lively demonstration of various types of strengths. People were divided into two groups, according to whether they had an odd or even number card in a particular color.

Two examples of blue cards with an odd number were: "I'm reserved" and "I think through and reason things out." Thus, structure and planning situations were important to these people. The strength was thinking.

Two examples of blue cards with an even number were: "I like change" and "I'm a doer" Thus, the strength for people who picked these cards was risking.

Within the odd numbered green cards, two examples were, "I am most effective in dealing with immediate practical situations"and "I accept the realities of a situation." These people had the perspective of being focused in the present. Their strength was practicality.

Within the even numbered green cards, two examples were, "I have a lot of interest in abstract ideas" and "I tend to see how things could be than how they really are." The strength for this viewpoint was being theoretical.

While playing with the red cards, people realized the meaning of the odd number cards. Two examples of cards were: "I get along well with other people" and, "The support of other people is important to me." This group focused on the needs of other people. As one member put it, "My clients are loyal to me. They feel cared for." These people have the strength of having the courage to depend on others.

While continuing to play with the red cards, people with the even number cards read out examples. These included, "I am self-sufficient" and "I value independence and personal freedom." Through the strength of independence, these people focus on being challenged and on being self-starters.

Katherine stated the importance of realizing the dynamics within the company that you work at. Regarding the six strengths, she said, "When you do something naturally well, it doesn't take as much energy. So, if you're very theoretical and like creativity, and you're in a job where you don't get to do that, guess what? You're miserable." Realize how you can attain balance through the work that you do.


January 2000   VCPWN Focal Points

Hustling With Chutzpah

by Carol Leish

Do you want to be recognized by the media? Do you want to be a shining star? Realize the ways to get acknowledgment and publicity for who you are.

First, it is important to recognize the community resources available to you. Realize that the media is waiting to cover interesting stories. What media? Look in the phone book to find out about newspapers. The newspapers within the Ventura County area include: Ventura County Star; Los Angeles Times; Los Angeles Daily News; Ojai Valley News; Ventura County Reporter; and, Business Digest.

For the larger papers mentioned above, e.g., "County Star" & "L.A. Times", I would recommend calling to find out who covers education, if your business deals with education. If your dealing with issues affecting the government, find out who covers governmental issues. Always call two or three weeks ahead of the scheduled event/meeting that you want covered. Mail a reminder note thanking the reporter for saying that he/she will come. Mail a thank you note and a little token of appreciation (such as a bookmark) after the reporter comes. Call the same reporter for future events in order to establish a business relationship. I'm even going to send Seasons Greetings Holiday cards to my contacts. The extra touches counts!

Also be aware of the impact that Radio has. The radio stations within the Ventura County area include: McDonald Media (KVEN/ KBBY/ KHAY); Gold Coast Broadcasting (KTRO/ KKZZ/ Q104.7/Octopus/Breeze; and, KLITE (98.3).

Realize that most radio stations offer community service announcements for free). Stations may offer community interest weekly programs. Remember; call in advance of various things that you want to have covered.

Realize the importance of Television coverage. Realize that KEYT Television is looking for human-interest stories. KEYT has offices out of Oxnard and Santa Barbara. KADY Television is a local station out of Camarillo. Call to find out if they would like to cover an event. All you have to do is give it a shot by calling.

Be aware of the importance of getting involved within the community. Yes, VCPWN is a great start. Consider joining one or more Chamber of Commerce. Join or talk to various groups in order to make more contacts (the joy of networking!). Call up the Rotary club; Lions; Kiwanis; or the Optimists. Also, become familiar with our local government, such as, the County Supervisors.

Remember that the first step is to call to let the media know what is available in the community. Stress what is the originality or interest potential of your event. Also note the importance of your event. Also, be assertive. Keep trying!

Call Me Capable & Call Me Irresistible (a hook is always important…)


September 1997   VCPWN Focal Points

A Matter of Attitude

by Carol Leish

"The richness of human experience would
lose something of rewarding joy if there were
no limitations to overcome."
----Helen Keller

Being brought up by a positive and determined mother, Kathy Long and her three siblings were determined to succeed. Welfare helped them out as a "safety net." Kathy went to live with her grandparents after losing her mom at age 16. Her grandpa reinforced her mother's idea of "education being able to open many doors for us."

With the help of scholarships, student loans and work study programs, Kathy received a degree in education. Her B.A. emphasized health and P.E. from Eastern University of Michigan.

Kathy has had an interesting and varied career path leading to her current position, which she refers to as using "aptitude and attitude to get altitude."

Kathy's attitude and aptitude then took her to Detroit. For nine years she realized the importance of "experiencing power and diversity while living in an urban environment."

Kathy came to California in 1981. She held a position with L.A. Councilwoman Pat Russell. Through her work she realized the various differences in dealing with honesty and integrity on the West Coast compared to the Midwest.

In 1988 Kathy came to Ventura County. After marrying Randy, they bought a franchise, "Flea Busters," and settled in Camarillo. By realizing the importance of networking, Kathy became active with the Chamber of Commerce and VCPWN. In 1990 her son Austin was born. He is now seven and "keeps my attitude up and has me rethinking my aptitude every day."

In 1991 Kathy began to work with Supervisor Magee Kildee's staff. After being encouraged to run for office, Kathy ran for Supervisor in 1995. With much support, including "invaluable assistance from VCPWN," Kathy Long became Supervisor on January 7, 1997.

The issues of concern Kathy has been and continues to work on include: highway safety; how to protect and preserve agricultural lands; how to keep our library doors open; and balancing the budget. She also stresses the importance of welfare reform and the welfare-to-work program.


July 22, 1994   Star Free Press

Employing the Disabled
(Letter to the Editor)

by Carol Leish

Re: your July 12 article, "Police put disabled to work":

The article states that adults challenged with developmental disabilities are participating in a work program at the Oxnard Police Department. Crime analyst Jane Lemond says the "Although they are in their 50s, they are like little kids, but they do a good job."

I agree with Lemond that the work program is beneficial since it "reunites these people with society." By shredding reams of duplicate crime reports from the Crime Analysis Unit, the volunteers provide an important service to the department.

The sad reality is, according to Lemond, "Even with today's modern technology and advancements, the majority of the people in society still have difficulty dealing with those not as fortunate as us."

It is important for the Oxnard Police Department to set an example to other employers in order to encourage them to hire people with mental/physical disabilities. Awareness is the first step to overcoming fear and prejudice of the disabled. In order to accurately follow the Americans with Disability Act(ADA), employers need to be more sensitive and accommodating to people with disabilities.


April 1994   Interface

Making Dreams Come True
(Spotlight on Volunteers)

by Carol Leish

We are such stuff
As dreams are made on, and our little life
Is rounded with a sleep

The above words from "The Tempest" have meaning for Jill Forman, who got her B.A. SUMA CUM LAUDE from CSU Northridge with a major in English. In addition to writing articles for "Inside Interface", Jill is a crisis counselor and has helped at "Safe Haven" Shelter. She also represents Interface at fairs and other community activities.

Jill and her husband, David Young, live in Ventura. David is a physical therapist. Jill is an RN in surgery at Los Robles Hospital in Thousand Oaks. She also volunteers time at the Human Resource Center Free Clinic on a regular basis.

Jill has a 23-year-old son, Joshua, who is graduating in the Spring from UCSB as a physics major. Her daughter, Allison, is also graduating this spring with a degree is speech from Cal State Chico. Courtney, her 19 year old daughter, is a psychology major as CSU Chico.

Jill says that at Interface, "You can do pretty much whatever you're interested in within social services. The volunteers and staff are a lot of fun; they are genuine people."

Jill, you are helping Interface to make dreams come true, by improving the community through your volunteer work.

Improving the community makes me think of the lyrics from "No, No, Nannette," "I want to be happy, but I can't be happy, 'till I make you(the community) happy too."


October 1993   Ventura Jaycees

God in My Life

by Carol Leish

Attitude is the important determining factor of how I view things in my life. Accomplishing goals is possible through having a positive attitude. This positive attitude comes from being serene, which faith in God enables me to be.

By having an optimistic attitude, I am able to excel in my personal and professional life. By being confident and serene, I realize that my goals and desires will become reality.

I realize that accommodating to different situations is possible, in spite of physical limitations. Even though I have a visual disability, I am thankful to God that I am able to drive. There are ways to adapt to situations. Having a hand tremor has not interfered with my education or my career. Computers, typewriters and tape recorders are prevalent.

By having faith in God, I realize what an important person I am. I also realize that everyone has a purpose here. I feel that my purpose in life is to make other people more sensitive toward the disabled. This goal will become a reality when the "Call Me Capable" Game is published and marketed.

My purpose in creating the "Call Me Capable" Game is to foster understanding and acceptance of people with disabilities and provide an opportunity to people to increase their knowledge about individual differences.

This purpose of mine, to do away with discrimination and prejudice towards the disabled will occur, since I have faith in God that it will. I always repeat the "Serenity Prayer." The words, "God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can and the wisdom to know the difference," are very powerful in my life.

With God in my life, I have learned to accept the thing I cannot change: my visual disability, slurred speech, and a hand tremor. I have met the challenge of developing the courage to change the things I can through the development of the "Call Me Capable" Game By developing the wisdom to know the difference, I have begun to realize the peoples' prejudicial remarks to me are caused by a lack of knowledge and fear of the unknown, which can be abolished by gaining awareness of the disabled.



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