I got the surprise of my life when people were complaining about a DR editorial. You mean the BYH column is not the...

ECU's Lifelong Learning Program kicks off spring semester

1 of 4

People visit the booths set up at the Lifelong Learning Kickoff at the East Carolina Heart Institute on Jan. 19, 2019. (Molly Mathis/The Daily Reflector)


By Karen Eckert
The Daily Reflector

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

The pages of the Lifelong Learning Program Spring 2019 course catalog sprang to life Saturday at a kickoff event hosted by ECU staff and LLP volunteers.

Held at ECU’s Heart Institute on the campus of Vidant Medical Center, the open-house-style event provided an opportunity for more than 100 adults, age 50 and older, to acquaint themselves with the Lifelong Learning Program and what it has to offer. 

Rather than just reading about courses, events and trips in the catalog, attendees could meet with volunteer instructors who were stationed at display tables or booths throughout the building’s main floor.

In the fall of 2018, 366 individual people enrolled in Lifelong Learning classes. Many of those individuals took more than one class, which resulted in over 1,300 registrations, said Andrew Ross, program coordinator.

Spring 2019 promises to be another full semester, Ross said.

“It’s one of our largest semesters yet,” he said. “It’s full of diverse offerings ... and we have a lot of new instructors (added) to the program, so we’re really looking forward to getting more people involved.”

While always glad to see the familiar faces of returning students, Ross said he is eager to see new people participate.

There are several ways to become involved, he said. One is to enroll in a class or sign up to take a trip. There are also plenty of volunteer opportunities.

“Our instructors are all volunteers, so that’s something that’s really unique,” Ross said.

Annette Brooks, a retired Pitt County middle school art teacher, was on hand Saturday to greet new and returning participants and tell them about the two classes she teaches: “Belly Dancing” and “Intermediate Origami.” 

Brooks has been a longtime student and practitioner of belly dancing. Her interest and knowledge in origami stems from her art teacher days, when she would occasionally incorporate the craft into her classes. 

Having retired from teaching professionally, Brooks said she now teaches just for the fun and joy of it. She said that her experience as a teacher for the Lifelong Learning Program has been “really wonderful.”

“A lot of the people like me are retired and it’s almost like finding a family or a group of people that you can relate to,” she said. “We have become friends and do other things together.”

A person does not need to have experience as a professional educator to teach a class.

“One of the misconceptions that a lot of people often have about our program is that (to teach) they have to have a Ph.D in (a particular) subject, and it’s really not about that at all,” Ross said. “I usually tell people (that) if you’ve taught it, that’s excellent, but if you have a hobby or you’re really passionate about (a) particular time in history and you’re a history buff, that makes you more than qualified to be able to teach that class.

“It’s not just about the educational credentials,” he said.

George Powell of Greenville brings his passion for fossils to the program.  A retired “walking mailman,” Powell describes himself as an “amateur paleontologist” and said he has been enamored with fossils since he was 12 years old and found a strange-looking rock while deer hunting in the mountains of western Virginia.

Powell, who is also a volunteer at the Aurora Fossil Museum in Beaufort County, will coordinate a trip in April called “Fossil Explorations” and take students to visit the museum. According to the catalog description, “While it is only an hour drive from Greenville to the Aurora Fossil Museum, you will travel 28 million years back in time.”

In addition to visiting the museum, students will be able to view Powell’s own collection of over 15,000 fossils.

Other classes represented Saturday included Born in the Appalachians — The Mountain Dulcimer; Story of the Prophets (based on Qur’anic stories); Afghan & Bosnian Cooking; “Swimming Between Worlds” (Book Talk); Meaningful Conversations Begin with Hello; Sip & Savor (wine tasting); Intro to Italy & Conversational Italian; Dementia 101; Understanding Behaviors of People with Dementia; Women’s Book Group and others.

Some classes meet on a weekly basis throughout the entire semester, while some meet for only one or two sessions. 

As well as gathering information, participants had the opportunity to register for classes while they were at the event.

Fred Mattox, a retired Greenville attorney and returning Lifelong Learning student, signed up for “The Rupture of American Politics 2012-2019.” In that class students will discuss the political upheaval of the last decade.

“And I also signed up (for) — at age 87 — iPad for Beginners,” Mattox said. 

The Lifelong Learning Program is for people who love learning and do not want to stop.

“I like to keep learning,” said Gloria Schwartz, a volunteer who chairs the program’s advisory council, serves on the program committee and teaches a class called “Memoir & Life Writing.”

Also present at Saturday’s event were some of the program’s community partners, such as Cypress Glen, SpringShire and SILVERcare.

“Our community partners either sponsor our program or offer in-kind donations such as space,” Ross said. “They are all vital to the overall operation of our program.”

There is still time to register for Spring 2019 classes. For a complete list of course offerings and other information about the program, including volunteer opportunities, visit www.llp.ecu.edu or call 328-9198. 

Karen Eckert can be reached at 252-329-9565 or at keckert@reflector.com.