Adults can head back to school, too

CHARLES TOWN – Schools have started up again, and why should kids have all the fun? In Jefferson County, learning is an option for people of all ages, backgrounds and activity levels.

A look at some of what’s available:

The Shepherd Lifelong Learning Program, operating out of Shepherd University, provides courses, lectures and tours of historic sites. There are no age restrictions, but the program is geared toward mature adults.

As for participation, program director Karen Rice said, “It really varies course to course. Sometimes we’re seeing over 100 participants, depending on what’s offered.”

Brown Bag Luncheon Lectures are one-time standalone classes. Topics vary from beekeeping to local history to culinary anthropology. There are also retirement planning workshops for those 50 and older.

The courses meet once a week over a six-week semester, starting Sept. 9. There are no quizzes or tests and no official course credit. It’s all for fun and love of the subjects. Topics include drawing, literature, local and state history, government, national parks and entrepreneurship.

If you’d rather be in front of a class than part of one, the Lifelong Learning Program is looking for instructors, Rice said. There are no restrictions or requirements – just a willingness to share with your community. Many instructors have no background in teaching; they are just people willing to lend their time and knowledge to education.

Interested people may purchase a membership, which either covers courses, lectures and trips or provides a discount on them, or can take individual courses for a per-semester fee. After one semester students must have a membership to take classes.

The Jefferson County Parks and Recreation Commission sponsors activities and classes for all ages. Coming up this fall and winter are a chili cookoff and bus trips to New York City and a West Virginia University football game. Fitness courses for adults include hardstyle kettlebell, Zumba, yoga and self-defense.

The Adult and Community Education Department of the Board of Education’s next round of useful and affordable classes begin next week. “We try to offer things for all ages,” said Judy Slusher, the facilitator for the department.

Many classes cover practical skills and the arts, “things even older people can do, to keep them occupied,” according to Slusher.

There are courses on Microsoft Office components, real estate principles and practices, dance, and arts and crafts as well as genealogy research, sign language, astrology, fitness and cake decorating.

Some classes, namely chess and airbrushing, are new or reintroduced this year. There are even free community service classes, like Financial Aid Basics 101, knitting/crocheting and singing. Around Christmastime some specialized classes in holiday crafts and cooking are planned, Slusher said.

Depending on the subject, classes can accommodate anywhere from six students to more than 20. Slusher said the most popular classes are the fun ones, such as dancing, and ones that will help people save money in the long run such as sewing. Computer classes are successful too because they teach skills that are essential in today’s job market.

There are countless benefits to pursuing education at any point in adulthood. Focusing on learning throughout life encourages people to be more active, engaging and social. “It keeps people busy,” Slusher said. “You have to be a lifelong learner. You have to do stuff with your hands so you can keep going.”

Rice agrees. “Seniors and retirees who choose to spend time sharpening their brain power are at less risk for depression,” she said. “These individuals also tend to remain active, compared to those who choose to follow sedentary lifestyles after retirement.”

Another option is the Adult Learning Center, where adults can prepare for and take the GED test, English as a Second Language classes and improve their literacy development. The center also has programs in basic technical and work skills.

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Want to know more?

n For details on the Adult Learning Center, call 304-725-3011 or visit it at 202 E. Liberty St. in Charles Town to take advantage of their programs.

n For more information about the Shepherd Lifelong Learning Program, contact Karen Rice at 304-876-5135 or krice@shepherd.edu. For a list of classes, teachers and events and to download a registration form, visit shepherd.edu/lifelonglearning.

n To learn more about what the Parks and Recreation Commission has to offer, call 304-728-3207 or email info@jcprc.org. See www.jcprc.org to download the fall brochure and get more details on upcoming activities.

n Contact Judy Slusher at 304-728-9237 or jaslusher@access.k12.wv.us for questions about classes in the Adult and Community Education Department. Go to boe.jeff.k12.wv.us/Page/85 to see the fall brochure and get more information about the classes.

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