FORT WALTON BEACH — Vickie Warner signed up for her first class at the Center for Lifelong Learning three years ago.
“My friend told me about these classes she was taking and I thought it sounded like a great idea,” she said. “Zumba was the first one I signed up for.”
Warner liked the dance fitness program so much she eventually became involved as a board member. She’s now the upcoming president for the 2018-2019 semesters.
For 25 years, CLL has provided an outlet for people to pick up a new hobby, get active and socialize with new friends. There are 76 classes to choose from and around 50 teachers donating their time to teach classes on everything from “tai chi to ISIS,” said past president Martha Bradford.
Beyond teaching, members of CLL also give back to the community by raising money for organizations such as Take Stock in Children and Children in Crisis. Classes are open to all ages, but the majority of students tend to be retirees.
“Most of our attendees range in ages from 50 to 90,” Bradford said. “We want to enhance the lives of the older generation and young people, too. The classes are for anyone who can attend daytime events.”
Anyone looking to learn a little bit more about history or master a new skill or just have some fun will find something they want to sign up for.
Warner’s favorite class? Wine tasting.
“You’re learning more than academics,” she said. “The networking is one reason to sign up. You meet so many great people.”
Teachers donate their time and expertise to CLL. Bradford said most of the teachers are retired educators who never get tired of being in a classroom. Even snowbirds offer their knowledge and volunteer to teach classes through the program.
“If they have an audience that wants to learn, then that’s just manna for teachers,” Bradford said. “That’s their paycheck.”
Jackie Youngblood has been a CLL member for 20 years. As a longtime dancer, she was happy to see tap dancing in the course schedule. Then one day the instructor hurt her foot and Youngblood had to literally step in. She’s taught tap dancing ever since.
“It’s wonderful,” she said. “We have so many different students. There’s a young mother in my class. My granddaughter has even come to take tap with me.”
Not only are the classes fun, but they’re affordable. Four eight-week courses total only $50. Classes are only held during the fall and winter. The fall semester will be open for registration at 9 a.m. Sept. 7. Warner suggests you arrive early to sign up for your top picks, because they fill up fast.
“You can’t get a better deal anywhere else,” said Warner.