Portland Community College program is more popular all the time

by: BARBARA SHERMAN - NEVER STOP LEARNING - Marilyn Katz of Summerfield, standing outside the Lake Oswego facility before the start of a Current Events class,  is a longtime participant in SSI.One of the best-kept secrets in the metro area is Portland Community College's Senior Studies Institute, which offers a huge variety of classes plus the popular Current Event classes, which are ongoing every term.

This unique program is for dynamic older adults who want to expand their horizons and connect with others, according to its website. SSI offers learning in a pressure-free atmosphere - no grades, no bell curves, no tests, no papers, no compulsory attendance, no competitive pressures and no formal faculty.

SSI is a member-driven organization and the course proposals are generated by the membership. SSI is special because its members plan, conduct and run the institute's programs and classes.

Members with a passionate interest in their subjects enthusiastically share their knowledge. Others moderate, facilitate or coordinate programs. Everybody participates and everyone benefits.

This group of 350 members is now in its 23rd year, and there are 120 classes each year. For only $30 per year, seniors can attend any of the classes that interest them at various locations, and SSI's motto is "We Learn from Each Other and We Never Stop Learning."

Classes are held at eight locations around the metro area, although the closest one to the Regal Courier coverage area is the Lake Oswego Adult Community Center, 4101 S.W. Kruse Way.

A small sampling of the winter 2014 classes includes "Hidden Children of WWII" about Holocaust survivors; "Music of WWII: Songs that Won the War" about patriotic songs; "London, A Short History of the Greatest City in the Western World" which is a DVD lecture series; and "Aging in Place: NW Village" about a group of like-minded people in a geographic area who come together to figure out and develop the resources they will need to age comfortably in their own homes.

Others are "Numerology - Unlocking the Mysteries of Numbers" about observing the cycle of the seasons and understanding that numeric formulas underlie music, mathematics and science just as the numbers in our own lives tell us about ourselves; "Clicks and Rails: History of the Telegraph" which shows why the Morse Telegraph was to the 19th century what the computer was to the 20th; "Defending Civil Liberties in Oregon" about how issues of privacy, public safety, racial justice, immigration and LGBT rights are among the crowded agenda items of the ACLU of Oregon; "U.S. First Ladies" from Martha to Michelle; and "Why Jane?" about why Miss Austen, two centuries after she lived and wrote, is all the rage.

Current Events is a signature program for Senior Studies Institute. Students bring up subjects based on news covered in local papers, national publications or television news. The class members discuss the various topics with no conditions except respect and civility. This class can get exciting, and it's always spirited!

At a November Current Events class held at the West End Building in Lake Oswego, about 30 people showed up, signed in and wrote topics they wished to discuss on the chalkboard under headings that included international, national, state/local, science and miscellaneous.

The first topic was the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, and the discussion went on for 50 minutes but remained civil throughout as people expressed their opinions and listened to others.

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