MAPLEWOOD, NJ -- Sitting in the cafeteria at Columbia High School unwrapping her lunch, Karen Duncan spoke animatedly with her tablemates about the English class she had just finished, Interactive Shakespeare.

“(The teacher) had us on our feet, interacting and acting out scenes,” Duncan said, adding that the class studied inflection and subtext.

Duncan, talking like an inspired high school student, is not actually a Columbia student.

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The South Orange resident was one of approximately 75 who participated in Columbia High School’s “CHS for a Day” program Saturday where community members could attend up to four classes offered at the school.  

“Students love (the class), and I can see why,” Duncan said of the Shakespeare class, chatting with her tablemates about the courses still to come.

Joanna DiPasquale, of Maplewood, conceived of the idea when she was going over the high school’s course offerings with her two daughters, a senior and a sophomore at Columbia.

“We were looking at the courses for next year and I said, ‘Well, why don’t you take that?’ And (my daughter) said, ‘I don’t want to take that,’” DiPasquale said, adding that she recalled thinking, “Well, I want to take that.”

According to Judy Rubashkin Martel, the co-chairperson for the event, 13 teachers from the high school were recruited for the program.

One of them, Kate Dodd, who has been an art teacher at the school on and off since 2001, taught the most popular class of the day, Art History. Dodd said she enjoyed teaching the participants, especially since “their impulse control is far superior,” she joked.

The event cost about $2,000, Rubashkin Martel said, adding that the host organization, the Achieve Foundation of South Orange and Maplewood, paid the teachers for their time.

Each class cost $10, and participants could take up to four classes.

For $40, community members could take four classes and receive lunch in the school’s cafeteria.

If the Achieve Foundation had any money left over after covering the costs of the program, it was go toward the restoration of Columbia’s auditorium, Rubashkin Martel said.

Caitlin Carroll is participating in a hyperlocal journalism partnership between The Alternative Press and Seton Hall University's Department of Communication & The Arts designed to give students real-world experience.