These students keep coming back for more

May 22nd, 2012 | By | Category: Everything Else

There’s a white board and teacher, students and a computer.  There are cookies and coffee and homemade chocolate candy.  What differentiates this classroom from most other college classes is that the candy sparked a conversation about coconut oil and Alzheimer’s disease.  Welcome to the 50+ classes at Clover Park Technical College.  The course listings mostly involve art classes but Stephen Rousseau, with the school’s Continuing Education program, said that the intention is to increase the number of personal enrichment classes offered to complement current “basic path leads to success classes.” Gretchen Alden’s oil painting class gets together every Monday for three hours of “therapy” as long-time student, Joyce Eyres sees it.  That therapy sometimes sounds like the conversation around the dinner table as students chide each other, interrupt conversations, offer encouragement and worry about missing classmates.
Personal enrichment classes differ from other college classes in that students often repeat classes for the fun of it.  Many of the students in Alden’s class have been showing up long enough to have lifetime memberships.  Harriet Stockridge laughed when she tried to recall how long she’s been showing up to apply paint to canvas.  “A long time,” she admits.  “I think about 15 years.  I was with Penny (when the courses were taught at the old Lakewood Senior Center).  I just started going,” she stopped then added, “I just do it because I like to get out of the house.  I feel productive.  Everybody’s so nice.  Fortunately my kids sort of like them (her paintings).  I just finished a farm scene for my granddaughter.  I’m not an artist.”  A statement which brings a quick disagreement from Emiko Hammand at the other end of the table.  “Don’t quote me,” she protested.  “I’m the worst one in the class.  They’re patient with me and help me.”
Hammond, who has been attending classes “a long, long time…maybe 20 years,” said she “was kind of a home body.  I had to come out.  I think everybody should come out of the house and do something.  Ahh,” she quietly said in frustration.  The class was working on a still life and Hammond was becoming frustrated trying to paint a green opaque vase.
Lyla Adey said she started taking classes after she’d “gotten a Bob Ross starter kit.”  She likes doing the different projects with people her own age and learning new things.  The added benefit is that the output from the classes means “you can change your walls out” although she claimed it was Eyers that owns a gallery in her home from the number of pictures on her wall.  “I paint for my own enjoyment.  I used to sit for hours painting at home.  I took a class from Jerry Yarnell and he was saying how many thoughts are required to paint.  You can exercise your brain (by painting).”
Eyers claimed she was going to be a stay at home mom so she took classes over the year but “didn’t get involved like I have here.”
One of the newbies, Carrie Dira has only been coming for the past two years.  “I spent 37 years on the east coast and while I was there I took classes at Michaels (Arts and Crafts store) and Michaels quit giving classes.  “This is fun.  It’s social too.  I prefer a smaller group.  If you want attention you ask for it and you get it.  If you don’t, they leave you alone.”
At a recent 50+ fair, the class showed their work.  An opportunity Dira said was fun as it moved them into the arena of “artistes” she said with a smile.
The only male member of the class is Robert Daniel.  He went to the 50+ fair and met Gretchen Alden who was answering questions about the class and talking to people about the art exhibit.  Daniels attended the event because he had just been laid off and the event included a job fair and seminars on finding work for individuals over 50.  “My major job now is looking for a job.”  He’d painted as a teenager.  “I used to go to the Boys Club and I just put it aside and always wondered about doing it again.”  While attending the fair, Daniel’s won a drawing for a free class.  He said he went right back to Alden and waved his prize at her and said he was taking her class.