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Sat Jan 21, 2017
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Community Education and Skill Building

Community Education and Skill Building

Source: Jennifer L. Hochlan for LIFELines

Continuing your education isn't always marked by high tuition, ivy-coated walls, and frat parties. There are many ways you can learn new skills or enhance rusty ones within your own community, and even online. Most communities offer evening classes at one or more high schools, community colleges, or vocational centers. Most are geared toward adult learners and are developed with your busy schedule in mind.

Close at Hand
The first step is to contact the community center, community college, or high school in your town to see if they offer community classes. If you are on or close to a military installation and would like help in getting started, contact your local Army Center for Education Services (ACES).

There is usually a wide range of classes. Most communities offer classes in office skills, Internet basics, light auto repair and maintenance, crafts (such as sewing, quilting, woodworking), bookkeeping and accounting, dance (ballroom, jazz), art (drawing, painting), personal improvement (nutrition, exercise, yoga, karate), and cooking. And each area might offer more in-depth classes, such as legal basics, public speaking, computer programming, home-buying and real estate, and college financial planning.

When looking to the community to better yourself, remember that not all businesses have your best interests in mind. Beware of auto-repair rip-offs (all the more reason to take that light auto repair and maintenance class) by visiting Great Day America — check out their ideas on avoiding identity theft, too.

Watch out for health clubs when trying to find a place to work out. Take time to read the fine print and always require a military clause. Figure out the true price of the membership over time and see if it is what you need. If it makes you uncomfortable, don't sign anything (and never give them a check unless you want it cashed).

Sometimes a local gym that allows you to pay one month at a time with no commitment is the best option, but also check out your local YMCA or YWCA and community center to see if they have low-cost gym access or swimming. To get the low-down on other consumer rip-offs, visit Endeavors International.

Distance Learning
If you are looking to continue your college education or just want a few refresher courses, and your community doesn't offer what you need, consider distance learning. This is a way to earn college credits without the classroom. It's usually all done over the Internet and telephone.

No Excuses
With all these options right out the front door and even at your fingertips, it's becoming hard to use the "I don't have time" excuse. There is something out there that everyone wants to do, and you are no different. Most community classes are in the evening for a few hours, or on the weekends, and are typically low cost. Trade off time with your spouse so he or she can watch the kids while you go to a class, and then switch so your spouse can take a class. You can also trade off with a friend or neighbor. So, no kid excuses.

Remember, this is time to build your skills, learn a new hobby, and just have time for yourself. You can make new friends and impress them with what you have learned. Taking time for you is rewarding by itself. You can even attend classes with your spouse and perhaps brush up on your dance steps. Use the time to get to know each other all over again. Now is the time to get off the sofa. Pick up the phone or visit your community center today.

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