Seniors go back to school, too

HCC offers Lifelong Learning program

HCC offers Lifelong Learning program

August 26, 2009|By MARIE GILBERT

Hagerstown Community College teems with young people - many fresh out of high school, others juggling education, families and jobs.

And sandwiched between these students are older adults.

It doesn't matter if it's been decades since they sat in a classroom. They are ready to head into a world of new ideas.

But this isn't about degrees or diplomas.

It's about enriching their lives.

For some, it's a chance to learn photography. For others, it's tips on how to research their family tree.

Rug hooking, mosaics, guitar lessons - take your pick.

It's all part of Lifelong Learning, a noncredit program at Hagerstown Community College.

For more than 20 years, the program has offered people an opportunity to fulfill their dreams, said Anne Myers, Lifelong Learning coordinator.


"Maybe it's a way to reconnect with passions they had in their youth," she said. "For others, it's the fun of learning something new."

While the program is open to all age groups, Myers said 70 percent of registrants are older than 50. The instructors, for the most part, also are 50 and older. And the combination has equaled success.

"Older adults appreciate being able to come to a community college setting, feel comfortable and safe in their surroundings and feed their hunger for learning," she said.

Myers said the schedule of classes represents the diversity of interests in the community.

"We value our customers and, really, half of the courses offered in the program have come about through feedback," she said. "Many people will call me, send me newspaper articles or clippings from magazines offering suggestions on future classes. We do our best to meet their requests."

While there are the expected offerings, such as art and history, Myers said there also is a sprinkling of the unexpected. This fall, registrants can consider "Pet Massage for the Pet Owner," "Mythic Storytelling Structure for Fiction Writers" and "Beginning Bluegrass Jamming."

"There, literally, is something for everyone," Myers said.

A graduate of Temple University, Myers said she has been with Hagerstown Community College for 15 years, starting out in the elder hostel program and overseeing the first Valley Mall site. She then returned to the main campus to head the Lifelong Learning program, as well as College for Kids, which this year had 900 students over a seven-week period.

"I think I've fully immersed myself in all phases of lifelong learning," she said.

Over the past several years, Myers said the noncredit program has shown significant growth, with the top two classes being photography and dance.

Also popular are the variety of trips offered through the program - from visits to historic sites to cruises to Europe.

Throughout the program, friendships develop, Myers said.

"There is a real sense of camaraderie," she said. "It's an opportunity to make new friends or reconnect with people you've known for years."

Myers said the appeal of the Lifelong Learning classes is pretty simple.

"There are no tests, no requirements. All you need is to have that initial feeling of 'I'd like to try that.'" she said. "I think you'll be inspired."

Myers said she would encourage people who are on the fence to consider taking just one class.

"It will lead you down a path into a beautiful forest of great ideas and new approaches," she said. "Otherwise, life's kind of a desert."

Myers said Lifelong Learning classes are held at HCC, as well as off-campus sites.

While several classes already are under way, most will not start until after Labor Day, she said.

For more information on the Lifelong Learning program, call Myers' office at 301-790-2800, ext. 582.

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