SFCC Community Education program piques the interests of many area residents


Published: Thursday, January 18, 2007 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, January 17, 2007 at 3:18 p.m.
Kathy Castronover has learned how to tone her abdominal muscles and last fall she took a Microsoft Office Applications I class to upgrade her job skills.
And even though her daughters are nowhere near engaged, they are approching what she considers the marrying age. So Castronover, 55, wants to take a wedding dancing course.
"I'm thinking for down the line," she jokingly said.
Castronover is just the kind of person for whom Santa Fe Community College's Community Education program was designed: the lifelong learner.
If your New Year's resolution includes learning something new such as kayaking, then Community Education is a great way to do that, said Kris Williams, SFCC's Community Education program director.
"I think it's just really important for people to learn throughout life, create strong social networks and explore all the great possibilities out there," she said.
Registration is currently underway for winter classes, which start the week of Jan. 20. Registration is also ongoing for continuing education classes in the Center for Business, which focuses on professional and corporate development courses, Williams said.
"People are always wanting to learn new things and meet new people that share common interests," she said. "Academics are important but so are the lifelong skills."
Those lifelong skills include learning about investments, professional business manners or even Spanish, Williams said. Community Education allows students to learn in a short and economical way.
SFCC's Community Education program offers classes five terms a year: winter, spring, summer and two sessions in the fall, Williams said. Annual enrollment ranges from 8,000 to 10,000 students and many people take multiple classes.
More than 200 online or classroom-based classes are available. They include Dance Like Shakira, Mosaics for Beginners, Money Matters and 30 Minutes to Mealtime.
Taking not-for-credit enrichment classes gives people access to resources they normally wouldn't have, said Phil Clark, professor and director of The Stewart Mott Davis Center for Community Education at the University of Florida.
"Learning begins even prior to birth," he said. "We are learning beings."
SFCC's Community Education program began 30 years ago as a partnership between the college and the School Board of Alachua County to offer leisure classes to the public, Williams said. The School Board is no longer a financial partner, but it continues to support SFCC and the Community Education classes.
Community education classes at SFCC range in cost from free to more than $100, Williams said. But the bulk of the six-week classes are in the $49 range, and $15 to $20 for the one-week classes.
Fees go toward the instructors' payroll, said Melissa Atyeo, Community Education office/course manager.
"The community education program is totally supported by its students," Atyeo said. "There are no outside funds like with classes offered for credit."
Potential instructors don't necessarily need a degree in a subject to teach, said Williams. Instructors need basic competence and enthusiasm about the subject and a desire to share and learn.
Bunky Mastin, who co-owns the Wine and Cheese Gallery, started teaching a leisure course on wine tasting at the University of Florida in 1974 and then at SFCC around 1980.
"People in this county and in this environment in Gainesville don't come into the world with a knowledge about wine tasting," he said. "We're not in a wine producing area like California."
Mastin said he felt a need to reach out and educate people about the fun they can have with wine.
One rainy night when half of his class didn't show up, Mastin was able to introduce the other students to a bottle of Grange from Penfolds Winery that costs about $100, he said. It is the single most famous red wine in Australia.
"It was an incredibly beautiful bottle of wine," said Mastin, who teaches the class at his downtown store. "I just remember their reaction to how good wine can be."
Michele Brimeyer and her husband took a wine tasting course with Mastin last fall.
The Brimeyers, who are both in their 50s, said they liked the class so much, they will be taking it again this semester since Mastin makes every class different.
"(Learning) stimulates your brain," said Brimeyer, who is a nursing professor at the University of Florida. "It keeps you young."
Special programs, like PrimeTime for mature adults and College for Kids, target a particular age group, but every Community Education class is open to most age groups.
Geoff Warnock, who teaches several courses including PC Fundaments I & II and GRE Math Review, said he once had a former school teacher in her 70s take his math class twice.
"It's a huge opportunity for people to get back into the concept of (returning) to school and learn in a relaxed, non-threatening environment," he said.

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