You think you’ve got the best job? From the sounds of it, Patricia Berlowe, Director of OLLI, Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at Yavapai College, might actually have the best one – or at least she makes it sound that way.
While studying for her masters in social work at ASU, she and her husband Michael, began looking for a place to settle and raise their family. The lure of Prescott and it’s four seasons brought back memories of South Hampton NY where Tricia was raised and Michael, had attended summer camp in Prescott. So, with fond memories, and anticipation, the move was made.
At the time, Tricia was working with Arizona’s Children which focuses on a variety of adolescent challenges with the goal of creating healthy family environments for at risk children, eventually becoming the regional director of the program.
After 13 years of often emotionally difficult work, “It was amazingly rewarding, such important work, but I got burnt out.” “It can be very difficult work to do, and can be emotionally draining, so as fortunate as I felt, it was a time for a change.” Tricia says.
While attending a local collaborative event, she came in contact with Dennis Garvey, then director of the OLLI program at Yavapai College.
Education and learning run in Tricia’s family. Her father a professor, and her mother, a librarian. “I always thought I would end up in being a teacher or being involved in education, and now in a way I am, but I still consider myself a social worker.”
Basically, Tricia’s career is bookended through her work with youth, and now, organizing programs and classes for community members over the age of 55. It’s been 15 years since she left Arizona’s Children, and began working with OLLI.
“I have the best time.” Tricia says. “I get to support over 150 knowledgeable volunteers, 1000 members, 40 committees, and a governing counsel of 11. I serve them in producing classes for older adults.” “The difference with our program at YC, is that all of the folks that teach the classes are members of OLLI.”
Tricia has a unique approach to her gig. “I direct the program, but I reverse the pyramid where I am at the bottom, helping to support and create the programs that our group of retirees and older adults are interested in. It keeps them interested in learning while sharing the wealth of their experiences they have accumulated over a lifetime.”
If you are not familiar with OLLI, especially if you are over the age of 55, you need to check it out.
There are 125 OLLIs, Osher Lifelong Learning Institutes throughout the country. Yavapai College is one of only five community colleges that are fortunate enough to have an OLLI program. “It’s a really big deal that Yavapai College and Prescott has the opportunity of having an OLLI program in our community.” Tricia says.
For $165.00 per year, members are able to participate in 20 of the over 300 classes and workshops offered throughout the year. There are also options for less participation at lower fees and scholarships are available. Membership brings not only new insight and education, but also networking and relationship building.
Classes are six weeks or shorter, and cover a myriad of topics.
“One of our current classes is, “Ten minute originals”, a writing class. Students are given a topic, and have ten minutes to write a short story of piece on that topic, which are then shared with the group. During 2020, we faced the same challenges that everyone did, and we thought out of the box and delved into zoom as well as daily email classes for those that weren’t comfortable with the new format.”
“During 2020 we also started doing, and continue to offer virtual presentations on museums and what not.” – “We draw from the vast and varied knowledge of our members who share their life experiences, talents, or hobbies with other members.” She adds.
The range of upcoming classes include: The Rise of China, Stories you will Never Forget, Reverse Mortgages, Gardening with Native Plants, Foreign Affairs, and a ton more.
“Keeping your mind engaged, and continuing to learn has been shown to extend life, and with OLLI, the quality of life.” Tricia points out.
The average age for OLLI members is 74, many in their 90’s and if you’re 55… along comes OLLI.
For info: www.yc.edu/prescottolli 928-777-7634 or visit them on the Yavapai College Prescott Campus.