The San Diego Community College District Continuing Education’s Acquired Brain Injury (ABI) Programs have had another great year.  One of our teachers, Margaret Jones, won the Excellence in Clinical Education Award from San Diego State University’s National Student Speech Language Hearing Association (NSSLHA) on May 1 for her outstanding work with over 100 MS and PhD speech-language pathology student interns.  Since 1995, Margaret has supervised and trained two interns per semester from SDSU about working with brain injury survivors in both group/classroom and individual settings. Congratulations, Margaret!

ABI also hosted a number of visitors, as we routinely do, who came to observe and learn about our programs.  Recently, we had representatives from the Brain Injury Alliance of Arizona visit, as well as two prominent researchers on language and bilingualism from the Center for Clinical and Cognitive Neuroscience at San Diego State University.  ABI staff members have also given several presentations, including at CAPED last October on “Creative Classroom Strategies”, plus talks to various graduate classes at SDSU.  This included a talk on aphasia treatment to the Acquired Neurogenic Language and Cognitive Disorders and another presentation on BI memory and organizational strategies to the Rehabilitation Counseling graduate students.

Also in the “news”, 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 Event for the past eleven years. Team ABI came through again this year, raising $21,260!  These funds may be matched again by a former ABI student’s family foundation, The Satterberg Foundation, which would bring our total to close to $40,000. The Event was held on Saturday, March 10 at DeAnza Cove and despite the cold, the drizzle, and the over-cast skies, was well-attended by approximately 700 participants, volunteers, and exhibitors. Team ABI members numbered 145 alone!  The students of the Peer Support class at CE-Mesa ABI-afternoon Program designed our t-shirts to show ABI Program information on the front and our symbol of the Phoenix rising on the back. Team ABI has now raised over $190,000 for the SDBIF since its inception. SDBIF provides referrals, education, advocacy, and support for survivors of brain traumas, strokes, and tumors---and the Survive Headstrong Event helps raise awareness and money for all of these efforts. 

As the top fundraiser, a portion of the money raised by Team ABI goes to the ABI Trust Fund. Most recently, we have used trust money to purchase renewed CPR training for our instructors, books for our Book Club class, DVDs about brain injury, and vison therapy for a student in need.  We were able to pay for our t-shirts this year and give each Team ABI member a t-shirt at no cost to them. The money was also used to hold small “Celebrations of Life” for two long-time students who sadly passed away this past year.

We are most excited about being able to use our trust money to fund the “ABI Anne Heller Scholarships”, established three years ago, in honor of our long-time and excellent dean, Anne Heller.  This year, the following sixteen students from all 3 ABI Programs were recognized for their ABI Anne Heller scholarship essays describing how the program had improved the quality of their lives: Richard Fletcher, Susan Gleason, Margarita Grant, Patricia Short, Tary Adams, Landon Busse, Phyllis Carlson, Mary Coleman, Deborah Consaul, Ross Cooper, Larry Fontenette, Carole Quinn, David Rivas, Karen Standing, Anna Mikhalsky, and Arnold Searcy. A new student, Chad Bartle, received the Counseling Faculty Scholarship, and long-time student Mary Coleman was awarded a Classified Senate scholarship. Chad also applied for and received the SDBIF’s annual $500 scholarship for brain injury survivors enrolled in a credit college or university program.

Here are some quotes from this year’s scholarship essays that highlight why we are so proud of and happy to work for the District’s ABI Programs:

“I have improved self-confidence.  I have better friendships.  I am part of a community. An underlying theme in all of my classes at ABI is recovery.  I have a new chance at life. I use the ideas I have learned.  Many years ago, my friend said to me “Just come to ABI, I promise you, the program will change your life.”

“ABI assists with my cognitive endurance, attention, and auditory comprehension, while improving communication skills and interpersonal interactions through establishing mutually supportive classmate relationships.”

“The classes have greatly improved my abilities to schedule my time and organize myself….The unexpected benefit of the program has been the people I have met, from the dedicated instructors to my fellow students.  I don’t think I have ever been more inspired….I have recently moved into my own apartment and with the tools that ABI has given me, I now feel that the hopeless outlook I once had has been replaced by joy and purpose.”

“My participation at ABI has given me the self-esteem to be able to engage with others, the confidence to reach out and volunteer my time…and skill to develop myself and find a new purpose in my life.  I am so grateful and want to continue on this path to reclaim my life and find ways to embrace the “new normal.”



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 »