Profile of a lifelong learner
What does a lifelong learner look like?
At Colorado Mountain College’s Rifle Campus, a lifelong learner can begin as a toddler who comes for day care while his mother’s taking a class. It could be the same boy as a 9-year-old, taking a Kids College pottery course in the summer.
Or it could be the 11-year-old girl enrolled in a summertime forensics biology class, who returns as a 14-year-old, begging to be enrolled in a computer course. “I know I’m not old enough for a college class yet,” she says, “but what if I bring along my mom?”
Increasingly a lifelong learner at CMC is a junior or senior in high school who’s getting high school and college credit simultaneously in our dual enrollment program. She might be able to shorten her time (and costs) in college by shaving a year or two off the time it takes to earn a bachelor’s degree.
We might not see either of these lifelong learners for a few years, while they head off to Colorado State or CU or a college out of state. But we might see him again when he returns to his hometown to teach elementary school and decides that learning Photoshop would be fun. We could see her again when she decides that a computer course would enhance her job-hunting skills.
When we went door-to-door for our community survey last fall, I was surprised to meet people younger than I who said, “I’m too old to have anything to do with college.” That’s the farthest thing from the truth.
A recent Associated Press story told of how Alzheimer’s researchers are discovering that “maintaining your brain” is one of the best ways to ward off that debilitating disease. They say that a healthy brain is a brain that’s continually learning and growing. And they encourage you to treat it like a muscle: Use it or lose it.
So quite often a lifelong learner at CMC is someone like Marge Lowderback, who returned to earn her associate’s degree at the age of 80. Or the people of all ages who took part in our nature series this summer, attending a Thursday night lecture followed by a Saturday field trip in geology, or birds, or stars, or plants.
Lifelong learning doesn’t always happen within the walls of a classroom. It happens everywhere. Learning is about retaining your curiosity, being open to life, expanding your world in any way you can. Maybe for you it’s taking an exercise class, or volunteering, or traveling, or just getting out and meeting new people.
Try a new puzzle, learn to play chess or backgammon. Challenging your brain every day, learning throughout your life, is definitely the way to go.
Pam Arsenault is the dean of the Rifle Campus of Colorado Mountain College. For more information about lifelong learning, contact your local CMC site (Rifle, 625-1871; Glenwood Springs, 945-7486; Spring Valley, 945-7481; Carbondale, 963-2172; or Aspen, 925-7740).
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The Glenwood Springs-Rifle sports rivalry goes way back for GSHS baseball coach and former Demons multi-sport student-athlete Eric Nieslanik.