Okay, hands up all you people who don't venture west of the Genesee. You might be surprised learn there's more to the Greece Central School District than acrimonious school board meetings and a well-orchestrated Presidential visit.
Gates resident Mary Kieffer, for example, is learning how to stop and reverse the aging process. She's taking her first Greece Community Education class, Five Tibetan Exercises, in which students learn techniques in meditation, visualization, and diet in addition to yoga exercises developed by Tibetan monks thousands of years ago.
Kieffer enjoys the class, which she takes with her husband, Don. She was drawn to it because "it's a little outside the usual realm."
In more ways than one. Unlike yoga classes offered at some health clubs, there's no noise pollution from the spinning class in the next room. Taught in a small, immaculately clean middle school gym, the intimate atmosphere works well for the 10 students in the class.
Instructor Charles Girard says, "This is the only program that works on the chakras first, then brings energy from the universe into the body. We pick up space dust as we age... it slows down the chakras. Then they don't emit the proper energy signal and the aging process starts." At $56 for four sessions, this class is affordable even if you've taken a vow of poverty.
Greece Community Education, a program of the Greece Central School District, is one of the largest of its kind in the state. "Other school districts have community education programs that are much smaller," says director Amy Peritsky. "And not all school districts have them."
Established in the '60s, the program has grown dramatically over the years. Approximately 1100 courses are taught each year, including an increasing number online. Courses range from adult literacy and GED preparation to career building and personal enrichment. Over 14,000 students are registered in all the programs, though Peritsky says the number of individual students may be smaller since many people take multiple classes.
With incredibly diverse offerings at very reasonable prices, it's easy to see why the program is so popular.
Peritsky points out that while there are no set educational requirements for the 300 or so instructors, "they must have years of experience in what they teach." For example, Girard has been studying alternative medicine since he was 16. Now a youthful 60-something, he's taught Five Tibetan Exercises to over 8,000 people throughout the country since 1997.
Tracie Doerner is similarly well qualified to teach art courses. A member of the Rochester, Pittsford, and Suburban Art Clubs, Doerner has 20 years of experience as a professional artist. Her work is included in exhibits throughout the area, including the Rochester Art Club's current show at RIT, the upcoming National Watercolor Exhibit in Old Forge, New York, and the Memorial Art Gallery's annual Clothesline Art Show.
"Anyone can be an artist," Doerner says. That's the kind of egalitarian spirit we love out here in Greece.
Although she favors the highly detailed, trompe l'oeil style in her own work, Doerner tells students in her Decorative Painting for the Home class, "You don't have to do detailed work. You can use simple tools to create something great." She adds: "People who say they can't paint always manage to do something very beautiful."
Inspired by HGTV and home décor magazines, most of Doerner's students choose to embellish chairs, small tables, and other accent pieces. "They see something they know is too expensive to buy, so they take the class to learn a fun technique to create something similar." The class is taught in a high-school art-room, which provides elbowroom and access to a sink. That's a welcome amenity, especially for those students who need to work through their fear of color.
Doerner's decorative painting class meets once a week for three weeks for a fee of $46, including supplies. She teaches brush stoke techniques to men and women ranging in age from early 20s to 70s. "Once they learn the technique, they can work on their own," she says. "Other [Greece Community Education] art classes have an ongoing, open studio, fine art feel."
Greece Community Education's fall session runs from September 26 to December 9. Both Five Tibetan Exercises and Decorative Painting for the Home will be offered.
Other classes include: Hula: The Art of Hawaiian Dance, four sessions starting September 26 for $29; Billiards, six sessions starting September 28 for $72; Adware, Spyware, and Spam, Oh My!, one session on October 11 for $25; and Getting Paid to Talk: Voiceovers as a Profession, one session on November 2 for $23.
Non-residents pay a nominal additional fee, generally $3-$10 per semester. Course locations vary and include the Greece Community Education Learning Center at Greece Ridge Mall, Apollo Middle School, and Olympia High School.
For more information, or to request a catalog, go to www.greece.k12.ny.us/commedor call 865-1010.
See more of Linda's writing at www.junkstorecowgirl.com.