By Louis Iannaco
Back to school in the fall typically calls to mind children and backpacks and an end to the fun of summer vacation. But, at the Great Neck Public Schools Community Education Program, when the students go back to school, summer may be over, but the fun is just beginning.
Community Education, formerly known as the Adult Program, offers a rich array of classes for adults of all ages. Courses in literature, the arts, foreign languages, games and hobbies, humanities, music, fitness and technology fill the days—and evenings—of thousands of annual registrants at Community Ed.
Comprised of more than 150 fall/winter classes, including more than 40 trips and special events throughout the fall, winter and spring, this comprehensive program offers so much for the community, notes Program Director Samantha Tarantola. “Whether it’s creating your own website, learning a new language or practicing Qi Gong, we truly believe the program is enriching the lives of our registrants.”
The program’s open house, which took place during the week of September 28, was a rousing success. Introducing participants to everything from jewelry making to tai chi to playing the piano, the first-ever weeklong event served as an opportunity to welcome Great Neck residents, as well as those from neighboring communities, to the program’s upcoming fall/winter sessions.
“We opened our doors to any guest who wanted to visit,” explains Tarantola. “We typically charge a $10 visitor fee, which is applied if and when you enroll in class, but this week we invited people at no cost.” The event attracted more than 100 visitors, with more than 30 percent signing up for fall classes as a direct result of their visit.
According to Tarantola, those taking part in the open house were very thankful for both the open house and the Community Education Program, especially those who were unaware of the variety of courses and number of classes offered. “We’ve had many visitors who never knew this building was even here. One called it a hidden gem.”
If you’re looking for the place to bring out your inner artist, there’s sure to be a class there for you. Master teachers are on-site and offer courses in painting, pastels, drawing and collage. Dedicated on-site facilities enable offerings in hand weaving, printmaking, sculpture, pottery, silversmithing and jewelry making.
Classes in foreign languages, history and literature are held in classrooms equipped with Smart Boards, allowing instructors and students access to instructive technology. Additionally, Cumberland houses a lab where technology courses are offered on iPads, Macs and PCs.
Two mirrored exercise rooms, one with a ballet barre, are host to dozens of fitness classes weekly. Zumba, line dance, tai chi, yoga, aerobics and various other classes cater to all ability levels. Specialized classes, such as water exercise, movement for those with Parkinson’s, standing Vinyasa yoga for seniors and ballet have become quite popular as well, and continue to address the needs of a diverse community looking to stay active.
The growing music offerings at Community Ed—including opera appreciation, singing and piano—all continue to thrive. The special event, Broadway in Your Own Backyard, has been brought back to educate and entertain with the music and back stories of Broadway’s most popular composers.
Community Ed offers an extensive array of day trips in and around the metropolitan area. A sampling of all-inclusive spring destinations will take participants to the Philadelphia Flower Show, Chelsea Market and the High Line, as well as on a New York City Cheese Tour.
Judy Umansky, mah-jongg and canasta instructor, says she believes the impact of the Community Education Program is that it keeps the community active, engaged and involved. “Learning new skills is not only important for mental acuity, but for socialization as well. As we get older, our circle of friends gets smaller, and this program allows participants to meet new people, learn new skills and have the time of their life.”
Instructor and web developer Tim Savage, who has had everyone in his class from young professionals to 80-year-olds starting new businesses, says of the program, “It’s exciting for me because I get to help them start on the road to wherever they want to go.”
For more information about the Community Education Program and for a complete listing of the upcoming fall/winter schedule, call 516-441-4949 or visit the Great Neck Public Schools website at www.greatneckcommunityeducation.weebly.com.
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