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Academy for Lifelong Learning has reason to celebrate

For the past six years, senior residents of Kingwood, Humble, Atascocita and East Montgomery County have been enjoying classes offered by the Lone Star College-Kingwood Academy for Lifelong Learning. The first year opened with just 71 members and six classes. Today, the academy has grown to more than 2,000 members and annually lists more than 1,500 classes.
“More than 61 percent of the members who attend classes come from the Kingwood, Humble and Atascocita communities. We already have 855 paid memberships this year, so we expect a record number of members to attend this year,” said Pat Chandler, program manager for continuing education. “Most of those members attend two and three classes a week.”
In the fall of 2003, Chandler who taught corporate training for 10 years at LSC-Kingwood was challenged with starting the Academy for Lifelong Learning outreach program for seniors.
“At first, I formed an advisory board and then began partnerships with senior programs in the area to insure I was on the right track. I wanted to have classes that would enrich lives and be interesting,” said Chandler.
The academy’s mission is to provide lifelong learning opportunities for adults age 50 plus, to learn, teach and share life experiences among contemporaries. The annual registration fee, from Sept. 1 to Aug. 31, of the following year, is $10. Classes are held, five days a week every month except June, July and December. Text books are not required. Craft classes usually require materials; those costs are borne by the member.
“Our teachers come from the college and from residents who live in the communities we serve. All teaching is done on a voluntary basis. When I first started, I really had to search for instructors; today the opposite is true. I have people calling me all the time. Today, I am proud to say, we have the largest senior program in the Lone Star College system,” Chandler exclaimed.
Jacqueline Baca, a Kingwood resident, who started knitting items for CARE packages for the American Red Cross when she was five years old, came to the academy to teach knitting and crocheting. In addition to continuing to teach the skills that she brought to the academy; she now teaches Spanish at the college.
John Villella, another Kingwood resident, brought his love of leading discussion groups, at a local coffee shop, to the academy. He now leads classes that travel down memory lane giving seniors a time to recall the ‘good ole days’ and his Brown Bag presentations that cover topics of current interest are so popular they are ‘standing-room-only’.

The many courses offered by the academy include computer skills, crafts, healthy lifestyles, history, a book club, gardening tips, current events and field trips. Free AARP tax assistance is always available during tax time.
“One of our most popular field trips is the METRO-65 or the Monthly METRORail Q card trip. The trip is lead by an Exxon-Mobile volunteer. The seniors take a local METRO bus downtown to purchase their Senior Q cards and then they ride the METRORail through downtown, to the museums and medical center. The trip is designed to get our seniors comfortable with using the METRO system,” Chandler said.
Class schedules are mailed or e-mailed to members each month. Members also receive weekly updates by e-mail. Chandler designed what she calls a visual calendar at the back of the monthly class catalogue.
“I wanted to make a calendar that could be put up on something, like a refrigerator, so our seniors can easily see what classes are offered and plan their time accordingly,” said Chandler.
All classes are held at the Lone Star College-Kingwood off-site location at the East Montgomery County Improvement District complex at 21575 U.S. Highway 59N. For further information, visit the academy Web site at www.lonestar.edu/adult-education-kingwood.htm.