There are already several “good news” items to report for 2017 with regards to the San Diego Community College District Continuing Education’s Acquired Brain Injury (ABI) Programs.  These involve Team ABI’s stellar performance at the Survive Headstrong Walk, recognition at Sharp Rehabilitation’s Victories of Spirit awards, and a number of individual student successes!

For the past ten years, the District’s Acquired Brain Injury (ABI) Programs have been a top fundraiser for the San Diego Brain Injury Foundation (SDBIF) in their annual Survive Headstrong Walk. Team ABI came through again this year, raising well over $17,000.  These funds were matched by a former ABI student’s family foundation, The Satterberg Foundation, bringing our total to over $34,000! The Walk was held on Saturday, March 18 at DeAnza Cove and was well-attended by approximately 700 participants, volunteers, and exhibitors. It was a fun-filled Saturday morning with music, a warm-up exercise session, many interesting exhibitors, a drum circle, raffle prize give-aways and much cheering. The SD Brain Injury Foundation provides referrals, education, advocacy, and support for survivors of brain traumas, strokes, and tumors---and the Survive Headstrong Walk helps raise awareness and money for all of these efforts.  Team ABI has now raised over $150,000 for the Walk since its inception.

As the top fundraiser, a portion of the money raised by Team ABI goes to the ABI Trust Fund. We have used trust money to purchase roller backpacks, home organization and vision therapy services for students in need, application fees for refurbished computers, CPR training for instructors, and guest speaker fees for our Summer Guest Speaker series.  A highlight of 2015 for the ABI Program was when we were able to charter a bus with this money and take 100 students on a tour of the downtown San Diego Library. Another recent highlight is that this money helps fund the “ABI Anne Heller Scholarships”, established two years ago, in honor of our long-time and much beloved dean, Anne Heller. 

We are especially proud of our hard-working students, many of whom travel hours by bus to attend ABI classes.  This year, the following nine students were recognized for their ABI Anne Heller scholarship essays describing how the program had improved the quality of their lives:  Barbara Bates, Richard Fletcher, Susan Gleason, Margarita Grant, June Jenkins, Jean Myles, Steven Sailors, Patricia Short, and Eric Zangroniz. Another current student, Marilyn Wellnitz, received the ASB CE-Mesa Scholarship, and a former student, Tanya Pulley, was awarded a Classified Senate scholarship. A long-time student, Tracy O’Halloran, began her Master’s Program in Rehabilitation Counseling at SDSU last year and recently received the SDBIF’s annual $500 scholarship for brain injury survivors enrolled in a credit college or university program. Yet another former student (and previous two-time recipient of the SDBIF Scholarship), Kimber Thurman, just completed her first year at California State University, San Marcos with stellar grades!

Finally, everyone at ABI was thrilled to be included in the Community Achievement Award given to the District Continuing Education’s Disabled Students’ Programs and Services (DSPS) by Sharp Rehabilitation Services at their annual Victories of Spirit Awards event on May 19, 2017.  Many of the instructors and counselors attended the dinner at the downtown Manchester Grand Hyatt. Along with several other excellent DSPS classes, the ABI Programs were prominently featured in the video shown to the gala attendees.

As always, the ABI staff is proud to be part of a District that provides support, education, and advocacy for these survivors in such a dedicated and innovative way.  Our mission is to help survivors rebuild a “sense of self” as this quote from one of our Book Club class books, Healing Into Possibility by Alison Bonds Shapiro, so eloquently states:


 “It’s not about getting back 75% of your old life.  It’s about having 100% of your new life.”


Heike Kessler-Heiberg, MA, SLP-CCC

Associate Professor, Acquired Brain Injury Program

Continuing Education, Disability Support Program & Services

San Diego Community College District CE-Mesa College Campus


Mission: San Diego College of Continuing Education commits to student success and community enrichment by providing accessible, equitable, and innovative quality education and support services to diverse adult learners in pursuit of lifelong learning, training, career advancement, and pathways to college. read more »