Last week I started teaching a new six-week series of writing classes for adults on the campus of Norwalk Community College. I experienced a feeling of déjà vu as I parked in the way back of the college parking lot and walked a few blocks to the building entrance on the West Campus.
My alma mater, Queens College, was a four-year commuter school. I remember taking two city buses to that sprawling campus from my childhood home in my freshman year. The following year when my brother joined me at Queens College, we shared our first car, a Pontiac Grand Prix, coordinating our schedules as best as we could. (Nice idea but not practical, especially when I had an 8am class and my brother did not need to be on campus until 10am. We sold that first car and each bought our own set of wheels.)
It’s interesting to see how some things remain the same, all of these years later. I am still walking along college campus sidewalks in jeans and sneakers. I still have long curly hair. The difference this time is that I am leading the classes and my students are all above the age of fifty. The Lifetime Learners Institute at NCC began in 1992 offering continuing education courses on a wide range of subjects for working and retired adults.
Lifetime Learners Institute members from Fairfield and Westchester counties can find many different ways to continue learning in a vibrant and social environment on a suburban college campus. Besides my fiction/ narrative nonfiction writing class this fall, adults over age fifty can sign up for courses including ukulele, world history, watercolor painting, film and literature. The fall session also offers Cole Porter’s Life and Music, The Golden Age of Rock ‘n Roll and Bad Girls of the Bible.
On this sunny fall afternoon, I notice how quiet and clean the campus looks. Crisp fall leaves and acorns scatter along the ground in the breeze. Brightly colored banners stating “NCC Proud” feature smiling students from all different backgrounds in front of the East and West Campus buildings. A large sign positioned near the cross walk proclaims, “Your path to success starts here.” Inside the West Campus building, as I navigate the long carpeted hallways to my classroom, I notice boldly painted walls with motivational phrases – Plan Ahead, Access Resources, Think Critically.
Students of all ages quietly walk down the carpeted hallways, clutching their cell phones on the way to and from classes. There is a comfortable feeling; an upbeat, positive vibe. I notice the culinary center, the cafeteria, tutoring center, veterans extended studies and workforce education offices. I know that Lifetime Learners (and instructors) can use the campus gym and library, too.
My class is over-registered. So many adults were excited to take my writing class that some were closed out. By the time I find my way to the last classroom, I wonder if I should have left a trail of bread crumbs for my students to find their way. But here they are, all prepared with notebooks and pens. We move the chairs into a lop-sided circle. As I glance around the room, I see five adult students who have taken my writing classes before at other locations. That immediately adds a level of comfort. Their enthusiasm is soon broadcast around the room.
As my new students introduce themselves, I meet artists, attorneys, dentists, architects, engineers and teachers. Lots of retired teachers with a zest for learning and new experiences. The active participation in intentional learning experiences keeps minds sharp and personalities engaged. Keep learning and trying new experiences – there is no age limit!
Kim Kovach also works with high school seniors in writing their college application essays, from brainstorming ideas to editing drafts and making sure their personality shines through on the page. Need a writing coach? Please contact kimkovachwrites.com