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Queens Chronicle

It’s never too late to get an education

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Posted: Thursday, September 2, 2010 12:00 am

Alba Delgado, 50, of Glendale was tired of looking at her computer like it was some kind of scary foreign object, so she decided to do something about it. She is taking advantage of a computer class for older adults at the Ridgewood branch of the Queens Public Library.

“Today is my first time coming here to learn and I am very excited about it and I feel very comfortable here” Delgado said through a translator. “Since I’m just beginning to learn, I wanted to take small steps.”

During the hour-long session, Jose Garcia, the customer service specialist at the library, patiently taught Delgado to use Microsoft Word explaining each function from italicizing text to properly aligning the body of a business letter.

“The only difference between teaching adults and teaching kids is that the kids are ready to go. They’re pressing buttons left and right, They don’t have the fear,” Garcia said. “A lot of the older people are hesitant because they’re like ‘I don’t want to break the computer’ or ‘I don’t want to press the wrong button.’”

Delgado is a perfect example. She has a computer at home, but was nervous about using it on her own, because she is afraid she will break it. She says her husband has basic computer skills, but lacks the patience to teach her, so she decided taking a class at the library would be a good move, especially since it’s free.

“I feel more informed,” Delgado said. “A lot of the stuff he taught me, I didn’t know.”

There is the old saying that you can’t teach an old dog new tricks, but that’s simply not true, especially if you live in Queens, where the choices for older adults to continue their education are endless from free classes at the public library to non-matriculated courses at a nearby college.

“Everyone, regardless of age, needs to continue learning for their entire lives,” said Joanne King, spokeswoman for the Queens Public Library. “Even if we don’t change the world, the world changes around us and we need to keep up with our education and life skills.”

The various branches of the Queens Public library offer a myriad of courses from movie making to stamp collecting, computer classes to book discussion groups. Classes vary by branch. To see a complete list, visit queenslibrary.org and click on the “events” tab.

Computer classes are growing in popularity as more and more daily tasks require use of the web. “It’s particularly valuable because today you need the Internet for everything from checking your Social Security account to writing emails to grandchildren who live far away,” King said.

For those who wish to improve their literacy or are newcomers to this country, the library offers reading and English classes. They are taught by volunteers under the supervision of trained staff.

“Seniors need to challenge their intellectual ability,” King said. “It keeps their mind sharp and their memory intact.”

And unlike classes conducted at a college there is less pressure and more one-on-one attention, according to King. “There is no judgment about whether you are doing well or not doing well,” King said. “You can come back as many times as you want and repeat the same lesson.”

But if you are looking for a more structured classroom atmosphere, York College offers plenty of choices to continue your education close to home — from computer and professional development courses to personal enrichment.

“It’s like brain aerobics,” said Cynthia Murphy, executive director of continuing and professional development at York. “As we baby boomers enter the third stage of our life, we need to keep our mind active.”

Murphy says many adults age 50 and over are looking to start a second career, enrolling in certificate-based programs such as medical billing or nursing assistant. A handyman course is popular among men, while other seniors seek a lighter brand of enrichment choosing swimming and dance classes.

For more information or to fill out a registration form visit startatyork.com or call (718) 262-2790. There is no strict deadline to join, but students are chosen on a first come first serve basis.

LaGuardia Community College located at 31-10 Thomson Ave. in Long Island City, offers college-level non-credit classes to the public at a cost of $299 per course, with two slots open per class. The rest of the students would be taking the course for-credit.

“It’s a lovely synergy of different age groups and perspectives,” said Jane MacKillop, associate dean of adult and continuing education at LaGuardia College. “There are wonderful intellectual and recreational choices, taught in a stimulating environment.”

The classes include visual arts such as drawing, painting and photography; music classes including voice, piano and guitar; foreign languages such as Arabic, French, Italian, Japanese, Russian and Spanish; and social sciences including world geography, western civilization, world history and world politics.

“We have conducted many surveys and students enjoy the classes,” MacKillop said. “The faculty enjoys having mature students. They set a good example and make great contributions to the whole class.”

The fall semester begins Sept. 11 with most classes starting the following week. Students must register for a class before it begins. They can do so by phone at (718) 482-7244, by fax at (718) 609-2074, or go online to peopleware.net/ace, or in-person by visiting the main building, room M141.

Queensborough Community College, located at 222-05 56th Ave. in Bayside, has a 50+ club that offers a mix of classes and campus benefits at an affordable price. Continuing education areas of study include art, dance, literature, creative writing, history, music, wellness, nutrition, languages and financial management.

“We established the 50+ Club program of study to specifically serve the needs of the Baby Boomer and Senior generations,” said Denise Ward, dean for continuing education and workforce development at Queensborough. “The needs of these generations run the gamut from preparing to return to the workforce and establishing a business to striving to gain mind-body balance in their lives.”

The membership fee is $75 per semester and students can choose up to three non-credit classes for $140 or up to six non-credit classes for $235. Additional courses above six are $50 each. Membership also includes discounted breakfast and lunch at the Oakland Dining Hall, available parking on campus, a series of free lectures and $5 off a pair of tickets for up to two performances in the fall 2010 season of the Queensborough Performing Arts Center.

To join the 50+ club, call (718) 631-6343 or fax (718) 281-5538 or visit the continuing education office in room 118P of the library building to register. There is no strict deadline to join, students can enroll anytime before their desired class begins.

Queens College, located at 65-30 Kissena Blvd. in Flushing, offers similar programming bundles as part of their Lifelong Learning Institute. Workshops include: computers from the ground up, mastering the digital camera, yoga basics, great ideas of western civilization and security in a time of social and economic change.

The fall 2010 membership fee is $295 and includes up to three workshops as well as other benefits like reduced rates on special college events, on-campus dining discounts and use of the on-site computer lab with Internet access. For more information, go online to qc.cuny.edu/pcs/ Institutes/LifelongLearning.

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