By Andrew “Drew” Mihalik

At Highlands Park, there is a bench dedicated to Carol Anicka Mihalik, who heard her first name called out only when she was in a new class, and was briefly confused when she heard it.

Parks and Rec hired her for the after-school program at the park and she loved it. Homework had to be done, but after that, it was time to expand horizons and encourage creativity. CaliBall, inspired by Calvinball and named after her miniature dachshund Caliope, had rules that changed according to day and perhaps the position of the sun and number of players. It was sort of a capture the flag/keep away/tag depending on the rules and got participants running and critically thinking at the same time. Her enthusiasm for reading and writing was contagious. She always carried a journal with her for writing or sketching, so the kids started doing that. She considered role-playing games to be the closest an eight-year-old could come to creative writing. If it’s raining, what better way to encourage group activity that mandated discussion, exchange of ideas, cooperation, critical decision making, and imagination. These teams created unique Dadaesque novelettes that were as transitory as artwork on sand at the seashore. Sleepover nights at Highlands meant stargazing, and that meant constellations, which meant Greek myths, which meant storytelling that could go on and on into the night.

Anicka Mihalik

Her passions were varied and did not wane:

She’d been raised by her mother, so was teaching the 4-H dog class alone by the time she was in high school.

She was exposed to the renaissance fair when she was three. As soon as she could drive, she was there every weekend camping out at night and hawking wares during the day, reveling in the freedom of that immersive theater. Indeed, she delighted in theater, attending Shakespeare Santa Cruz and joining a delightful and enthusiastic group, Lupin productions, performing at the theaters on Broadway (Santa Cruz, not New York) and Squid Row. She was a recognized fixture at DungeCon, delighting in the creativity of LARPing.

Her reading interests were eclectic. Reading time at bedtime when she was one involved Little Golden Books. Then the old fairy tales from the blue fairy book and the green fairy book and the red fairy Book, then D’Aulier’s Greek myths and Untemeyer’s book of children’s poems. She couldn’t wait to learn to read.

Hopefully, this room with her name will spark an enthusiasm for reading and life in those who pass through.