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Some SRJC older-adult classes survive outside the college

  • Memoir writing class instructor Steve Borga offers his suggestions to a student during their class meeting at the French Garden restaurant, in Sebastopol, on Friday, July 1. 2011.

For more than 14 years, Steve Boga has been espousing the value of memoir writing in classes to Sonoma County senior citizens.

The message has been received. After Santa Rosa Junior College canceled its older-adult education program for this summer, Boga's students pulled out their wallets to raise $1,300 for each of the three 10-week classes he would normally have taught them for free.

"The only difference is we lost some students who were marginal anyhow," Boga said.

Such positive outcomes seemed very much in doubt in April when SRJC officials revealed they were cutting all 83 classes in the older-adult program, which provides courses at sites across the county.

Scores of teachers and seniors showed up at the subsequent meeting of the board of trustees, pleading for jobs for teachers and a vital source of socialization and stimulation for the county's older students.

Besides, they said, the program already had suffered enough, getting slashed from more than 300 classes two years earlier to 83 going into the summer.

College officials, though, said that in tight times, they had to focus on the school's core mission of university preparation and vocational skills.

But despite the loss of funding, the cuts haven't been as devastating as some feared.

College officials recently contacted people connected with 55 of the 83 cut classes. In two-thirds of the cases, the courses were continuing in some fashion through alternative arrangements, including volunteer teachers, student payments and fees provided by the host institution, including senior centers.

At the Russian River Senior Resource Center, a teacher no longer comes each week to teach water colors, but the center continues to offer space to her former students who help each other.

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