Published Aug. 2013
By Michelle Dupler, Tri-City Area Journal of Business
If you’ve ever thought about starting a pet-sitting business or just want to learn how to use all the buttons on your expensive digital camera, the Kennewick School District’s community education program can help.
While most people associate the school district with teaching the “three Rs” to students in K through 12, it also offers a variety of enrichment classes for adults who want to be lifelong learners.
“We want to offer people the opportunity to continue to learn and grow in different areas,” said Terry Andre, the district’s community education coordinator. “It’s important for kids to see their parents and grandparents don’t stop learning when they’re out of school, that mom, dad, aunts and uncles take classes because they want to — not because they have to.”
And the classes are funded entirely by user fees with many instructors volunteering their time so no tax dollars are used, she said.
The program offers a variety of classes both in a traditional classroom setting and online. The pet-setting business class is one of the online offerings.
Prospective students can look at a detailed course description, syllabus, instructor bio, participation requirements and reviews from previous students on the district’s community education website, which also gives the length of the class, session start dates and the price — most classes cost $105.
If the six-week, pet-sitting class whets a student’s appetite and deepens his or her love of furry critters, the student could go on to take a series of veterinary assistant courses, or classes on how to create a business plan and how to market a business on the Internet.
Other classes might allow students to learn the basics of real estate law, how to build spreadsheets in Microsoft Excel or how to speak basic conversational Spanish or Japanese.
While many classes offer practical skills that might boost someone’s chances at getting a raise or promotion at work, some classes offer the chance to try a new creative pursuit, like the six-week online “Pleasures of Poetry” or “Drawing for Absolute Beginners” courses.
“For me, probably the best thing about community education is when somebody opens up the catalogue and thinks, ‘Ah! I always wanted to do that!’” Andre said. “We want to give people the opportunity for things they haven’t had the time or haven’t had the money to do.”
Sometimes those classes taken for the sheer love of learning can turn into new careers. Andre gave the example of Tri-Cities’ watercolor artist Christine Blevins, who started by taking a community education class and now has her work featured in exhibits and magazines.
“To me that’s the ultimate — somebody who gets a chance to try something new and digs into it,” Andre said.
But community education also can provide the opposite — giving someone the chance to try something and find out it isn’t for them in a more affordable setting than a college class.
Andre said the school district’s program also is helping to preserve some traditional arts and skills that otherwise might be lost, such as tatting, sewing and knapping — the native technique of making arrow heads.
“These are things you don’t necessarily think of as current, every day skills, but we want to make sure they stay alive,” she said.
Although the school district’s community education program may have the most plentiful offerings, it isn’t the only game in town when it comes to enrichment education for adults.
Richland’s Parks and Recreation Department this summer is offering a range of community education classes including watercolor painting, basic financial planning courses, sewing, quilting, Spanish, dog training and even a class on how to become a clown.
Pasco offers classes on sewing, china painting, end of life planning and a wood carving session with Basin Wood Carvers every Saturday afternoon at the Pasco Senior Center.
Kennewick Parks and Recreation Director Maxine Whattam said her department focuses its enrichment classes on offerings for seniors through the Kennewick Senior Center to avoid overlap with the Kennewick School District’s community education offerings.
There are enrichment opportunities to be found through Kennewick Parks and Recreation, such as this summer’s offerings in sewing, basic conversational Spanish, wire wrapping jewelry, one-on-one computer tutoring, and Voices in Beautiful Expression singing workshop.
“If there’s a specialty kind of thing where nobody else out there is offering it, we would typically assist with that,” Whattam said. “We try to complement the school district and what other cities offer. We do a lot of cooperative programs as well. We definitely are all on the same kind of page.”
Columbia Basin College formerly offered community education classes, but those were cut when the state began cutting funding for higher education to bridge multibillion dollar biennial deficits starting in 2008.
CBC ultimately lost millions from its budget and college officials had to evaluate programs and offerings to preserve as much of CBC’s curriculum as was possible while also continuing to allow growing enrollment.
CBC spokesman Frank Murray said the college continues to offer access to its fitness center at a reduced rate for seniors, and offers some financial literacy classes through the CBC Foundation.
“We had more community education classes before (2008), but then the economic crisis hit and we needed to cut our budget,” Murray said.
Washington State University doesn’t offer any special community education-style classes, however it does offer a waiver of fees for those ages 60 and over who are Washington State residents.
Applicants are asked to sign a statement that courses taken under the fee waiver will not be used toward credentials, salary schedule increases or degrees. No more than six credits may be taken each semester under the program, and if you apply for more than six credits, you will be charged full tuition for all credits. Those using the tuition waiver are admitted to classes on a space available basis, are assessed a nonrefundable $5 registration fee, are responsible to pay any other fees as appropriate and are not eligible for student benefits under this program.
For more information, go to:
- Kennewick School District: http://communityed.ksd.org
- Richland Parks & Recreation: www.richlandparksandrec.com
- Pasco Parks & Recreation: www.pasco-wa.gov
- Kennewick Parks & Recreation: www.go2kennewick.com/recreation
- Columbia Basin College: www.columbiabasin.edu
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