Area’s elder learning programs pool their resources

Members of the Sarasota County Adult Community Enrichment Classroom on Wheels chat during a field trip in October 2014. ACE is one of the partners in a new coalition of lifelong learning groups. H-T ARCHIVE/RACHEL S. O'HARA

Members of the Sarasota County Adult Community Enrichment Classroom on Wheels chat during a field trip in October 2014. ACE is one of the partners in a new coalition of lifelong learning groups.
H-T ARCHIVE/RACHEL S. O’HARA

By Barbara Peters Smith, Herald-Tribune

In Southwest Florida, adult learning opportunities are almost as plentiful as golf courses — but a lot harder to find.

Now, four longstanding local programs — devoted to helping elders get smarter about everything from tango steps to American exceptionalism — are joining forces. The point is to cement the reputations of the Sarasota and Manatee County area as a magnet for older adults who want to keep expanding their knowledge in retirement, while making it easier for residents to find a class that suits their time and tastes.

The new nonprofit group will be called the “Sun Coast Alliance for Lifelong Learning,” or SCALL. Its founders are

Adult and Community Enrichment at Suncoast Technical College, Lifelong Learning Academy, Longboat Key Education Center and Pierian Spring Academy.

SCALL president Bob Carlson, who is also director emeritus of Pierian Spring, says the four institutions create a learning center that is greater than the sum of its parts.

“When you put them together, it’s a phenomenal array,” he said. “PSA is principally academic in its offerings, while ACE has a lot of practical, hands-on courses. Lifelong Learning Academy is kind of a mix of the two, and Longboat is also very diverse. Together they reflect the extensive number of people in our community with all kinds of expertise and interests.”

Carlson said that in 2013-14, nearly 20,000 people accessed more than 2,500 adult learning courses and lectures offered in the area.

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