Senior Citizen Feeling Right at Home at GC

It was about two years ago that I got the phone call from Garrett College. Would I be interested in doing some writing on a temporary part time basis? The goal of the work would be getting the word out to the community about what was happening at the college. In my typically reserved manner I responded: “Wow. Cool. Sure.” And then I learned they were going to pay me to do it.

Like almost everyone in Garrett County, I had been on the college campus many times for many different reasons. I had used the library, attended concerts and Chautauqua events, been to see art displays in the gallery, participated in training sessions, and coordinated conferences for organizations. Oh, and of course, I had attended classes as well as taught a few, both on the main campus and at outreach sites. In the short time I have been working here I have watched and recorded exciting growth. The Career Technology Training Center opened in Accident providing plenty of space for classes in various trades, the Electrical Engineering associate degree program was initiated, the GC robotics team debuted, and the Community Aquatics & Recreation Complex opened.

To be working at Garrett College and helping to tell its story is like a accomplishing a goal on my “bucket list.” Here I get to mingle with all kinds of dedicated people both staff and faculty who work to help others improve or enhance their lives as well as students who are absorbing knowledge and skills to carry them into the future. There is an energy here that is contagious.

In the hallways students of all ages mill about moving from class to class. In small lounge-type spaces they huddle over open text books or gather in knots of conversation. Yes, there is energy here and, yes, it is contagious. I walk past classrooms where students are engaged in dialogue or looking at something through a microscope and I want to go in and sit down and be part of this. There is so much to learn and so little time! Perhaps no one would notice that I was not in my office and I could go to Ron Skidmore’s drawing class…or maybe slip over to listen to Kevin Dodge talk about where the wild things are…

For many of us who are “older adults” learning new things is a treat. Now that we are of an age that we don’t need to sit classrooms, the whole prospect of being presented with the gift of information is very enticing and exciting. At Garrett College folks who are age 60 or over can take regular college classes tuition-free. It is not necessary to be going for a degree in order to enroll and take advantage of this opportunity.

During my first weeks on campus I had the very good fortune to meet Zelma Nearey. She had started taking courses at GC some years earlier to move in a new career direction. She found that she got hooked on leaning. Once she hit the magic age of 60, she no longer had to pay tuition for her classes. At that point there was no stopping her. Zelma graduated for the first time with her grandson in 2011. She graduated again, with yet another degree, in 2012.

The GC campus population is definitely intergenerational with “non-traditional” students making up a significant percentage. Then, added to this mix, are the fifth-grade Garrett County students in the College & Me program. They move from classroom to classroom looking rather wide-eyed and uncertain. All this variety adds to the positive energy I feel here.

This summer the campus has been especially energizing for me. In addition to all the kids showing up for the baseball, basketball, and adventure camps, there have been families in the Laker Café where anyone 18 and under may eat breakfast and lunch free. It is not unusual to see parents leading several young children down the college hallways, with hair all wet and spiky from swimming, making their way from the CARC pool to the cafeteria. I pause and watch and smile.

Though the word is no longer part of the college name, the sense of Community here is vibrant. I’m really proud to say “This is My GC.”