It’s time for children to go back to school, but does learning have to stop once we grow up? Thanks to various programs throughout Gainesville, it doesn’t have to.
For those who want to keep learning, Santa Fe College is one local institution that offers non-credit classes through its Continuing Education program.
“Continuing Education could be for someone out of the workforce looking to refresh their skills, someone who wants to move up in a position they’re in, or for employers who want to provide training,” said Lisa Anderson, the continuing and corporate education coordinator at Santa Fe College.
Santa Fe has been offering this program for about 20 years and a couple thousand people take advantage of it every year. With around 250 courses being offered in the fall, there’s something to keep everyone interested. Personal enrichment classes include courses in cooking, dance, home and garden, languages, music, arts and photography. Professional development courses, on the other hand, focus on topics like computers, social media, event planning and professional makeup. Additionally, business-based courses center on skills such as customer service and entrepreneurship.
“We are here to respond to the community’s needs,” Anderson said. “There are courses designed to help companies fully train their staff and there are courses for individuals.”
Classes are held at or around Santa Fe College and are taught by a variety of business leaders and experts in the community. Each contains around 10 to 30 people, making it easy for attendees to get personalized instruction. While some classes are only a few hours long and allow individuals to work on a fun project, others span six to 12 months and allow attendees to get a workforce certificate. Depending on the length and content, some courses cost a few hundred dollars while others cost nothing.
Fall courses begin the second week of September and registration begins the third week of August. Those interested must first complete an online application and can then register in person, on the phone, by fax or by mail.
While Santa Fe College offers many courses, older adults also have options through The Institute for Learning in Retirement (ILR). This program, which takes place at Oak Hammock at the University of Florida, allows community members to keep learning during their retirement years.
This nonprofit community-based organization is open to all North Florida residents who are 55 and older. With over 550 members, 300 who live at Oak Hammock and 250 from the Gainesville community, it is flourishing.
Beginning in 2001, ILR offered programs such as a book club and religion class to Gainesville community members. After Oak Hammock opened in 2004, it wasn’t long before the program grew.
Taught primarily by professors from the University of Florida, each class runs about 50 minutes and features additional time for attendees to ask questions and engage in discussion.
Sara Lynn McCrea, the dean of residents at Oak Hammock, said that IRL has been well-received by retired community members.
“It keeps them vibrant,” she said. “It keeps them active. It keeps their minds going.”
While Santa Fe College offers many courses, older adults also have options through The Institute for Learning in Retirement. This program, which takes place at Oak Hammock at the University of Florida, allows community members to keep learning during their retirement years.
ILR courses aren’t like traditional classes; there aren’t tests or homework. There is simply a community of people interested in learning in an interactive environment. Some courses even offer field trips to locations such as the Harn Museum of Art and various colleges in UF.
ILR offers three main sessions in fall, winter and spring. They each run for around six weeks and feature a range of classes. Law and the Movies, which was offered in the spring, for example, focused on trials that took place in films. Attendees first watched a movie and then heard from a law professor or a Gainesville attorney on the process and outcome of the trial in that film.
Another popular spring class was about Mexico and had 100 people showing up each week. The final session featured a Mexican dinner, margaritas and even a Mariachi band.
Membership into ILR costs $20 for the calendar year and each course costs $10. For $30, a person can take all the courses in a semester.
“There’s a large number of people who have stated that this was one of the things they were looking for when they were looking to retire,” McCrea said. “We’ve got people from Spain, Canada, Puerto Rico – people from across the country. They really want to continue learning, and this program gives them that opportunity.”
Gainesville is brimming with education opportunities, so grab a backpack and wake up your curiosity – you have some classes to attend.
Santa Fe College
3000 NW 83rd Street
Gainesville, FL 32606
To Register: 352-395-5896
at the University of Florida Lifelong Learning The Institute for Learning in Retirement
5100 S.W. 25th Blvd.
Gainesville, Florida 32608