'We learn so much, and it's so low-key and informal'
by: Barbara Sherman ALMOST TOO MANY CHOICES – Marilyn Katz, who lives in Summerfield, has served on the SSI board and is on the curriculum committee, which takes input from program participants and decides the offerings each term.

Marilyn Katz of Summerfield wants to spread the word to fellow seniors about all the advantages of Portland Community College's Senior Studies Institute.

"For starters, you can go four days a week to various classes and programs if you want," Katz said.

She served on the board and has been on the curriculum committee since it started. "People submit ideas, and we discuss them," she said.

The program was started by PCC as a way to get seniors into continuing education, according to Katz.

"Now there are almost 300 members and six sites around the Portland area," she said. "All the sites offer current events, which is the biggest draw. People love to get together and talk about current events.

"What I love is meeting people from all different backgrounds. Everybody is basically retired so they all bring interesting perspectives to the table. Participants also can make presentations about an interest of theirs. I love to do the research and make a presentation."

Experts in their fields teach classes and allow students to learn in unique ways, according to Katz.

For example, every September a man involved in the Greek Theatre Society participates in an annual production, and many SSI students attend the play and may go to a Greek restaurant afterwards.

"In February a PCC-Cascade professor talks about Black History Month," Katz said. "In March there is a women's history session. I started it and kind of took charge of it. Three or four different people will report for 20 minutes each on a woman who has had an influence on history, like the lady who started the Red Hat Society."

There also is time to socialize, Katz said, including an opening brunch in the fall, a holiday brunch in December and a closing lunch in May.

"And we change officers and have a potluck in the summer," she said.

Friendships form, and SSI members participate in activities together outside of the program.

"Someone invited six of us, including Eileen and Phyllis, to lunch one day, and we kept on doing lunches," Katz said. "Some go to Ashland every summer to see plays. We've become such close friends with each other. That is such a blessing to come out of this."

Katz, a retired teacher from the McMinnville School District, said that moving to Summerfield "was the best thing I ever did. I got into golf and tennis - I love this place.

"And retirement is wonderful. It was just amazing finding the SSI program. We're never too old to learn, and we learn from each other. I'm a firm believer in using it or losing it. The program has no crafts, no cards and no exercise - there are enough of those kinds of things around."

Organizers are seeking people with expertise, such as docents from the Portland Art Museum, to lead programs, as well as getting more participants in the classes.

"We're always trying to get new people," Katz said. "We encourage people who are not working who want to stimulate themselves intellectually to check us out.'

According to Katz, there are lots of volunteer activities associated with SSI - from serving on the board or as a site coordinator to acting as an ombudsman, doing photography, or compiling scrapbooks of photos and articles.

"We learn so much, and it's so low-key and informal," Katz said. "You can see how enthusiastic I am."

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