PROFILE: Community Education has classes for everyone
Whether it’s learning to paint in watercolor, exploring Highlands County’s economy, or attending summer camp, South Florida Community College’s Community Education Department offers something for everyone. “We have programs for anyone ages 7 to 90,” said Rebecca Rousch, director, Community Education. “We are here to meet the need for personal enrichment in the community.”
The most popular Community Education classes that Rousch and Lauren Redick, Community Education specialist, organize are the non-credit classes such as Conversational Spanish, hands-on computer labs, oil and watercolor painting, and Tai Chi. Along with registering students, scheduling classes, and searching for instructors, Redick also teaches the aquabics class. She has taught aquabics twice a day for the past five years. “I never thought I could be a teacher,” Redick said, “but once I started, I realized it was really fun.” To teach aquabics, Redick had to become certified by the Arthritis Foundation and in CPR.
While most of the ideas for Community Education’s non-credit classes come from community suggestions, Rousch finds that ideas for her Elderhostel, Lifetime Learners, and Summer Youth Enrichment and Teen Leadership programs often come from the subjects she learns about and stories she hears in her Leadership Highlands program. Leadership Highlands is a partnership between South Florida Community College and the Avon Park, Lake Placid, and Sebring chambers of commerce. The program aims to develop strong community leaders by familiarizing them with the businesses, agencies, the economy, needs, and resources of Highlands County.
Rousch came up with the idea for one of her most popular Elderhostel and Lifetime Learners Institute programs during a Leadership Highlands session on economic development and tourism at the Sebring Regional Airport. “We were sitting at the airport watching planes taxiing and listening to the race cars roaring around the track, and I realized what a unique place it was with exciting things to learn about,” Rousch said. “I thought people who loved planes or racing would enjoy coming here, staying at a four-star hotel, and walking the grounds that folk-heroes like Paul Newman, Mario Andretti, and Steve McQueen have made famous.”
It was through that experience that Rousch developed the Elderhostel program “Wings and Wheels: Sport Aviation and Race Cars, Behind the Scenes at Sebring International Raceway.” Participants traveled to the Sebring Regional Airport, where they learned about sport aviation and the Sebring International Raceway and spent a day on the track with the Corvette racing pit crew. Rousch then incorporated the idea into a Lifetime Learners Institute program which toured several of the companies that are located on the Sebring Regional Airport. “Many of our Lifetime Learners didn’t know that so much was out there,” Rousch said. “It really showed them some of the great things our community has to offer.”
The Leadership Highlands program also provided Rousch with ideas for this summer’s Teen Leadership program. The teens explored the business world of Highlands County by learning how area facilities were run. They watched a K-9 demonstration at the Highlands County Sheriff’s Office and visited the asphalt plant and Highlands County Landfill. They also explored Highlands County’s history by taking a look inside the cockpit of a barnstormer’s hand-made, wing-walker bi-plane, visiting the Avon Park Depot Museum, and discussing the pros and cons of haunted buildings and life as a mobster at The Hotel Jacaranda. “My goal was to introduce them to places in the area that they wouldn’t otherwise see or know about and get them thinking about career opportunities close to home.”
“With all of my programs, I like to make connections between people and ideas, places, and interesting things to see and do,” Rousch said. “If it interests me, I always feel like it will interest somebody else. By putting interesting people of all ages together, we provide all of the members of our community with the opportunity to learn about new subjects and places they never knew existed.”