Saturday, January 5, 2013

RISE Serves Two Generations of Lifelong Learners

Written by Rio Salado College intern Erica White

The Rio Institute for Senior Education(RISE) is a fast growing center where older adults are continuing their education, making friends and having fun. RISE has members of all ages and interests taking a variety of available classes. 

“We offer over 300 classes in noncredit courses from September to May and we have a modified summer program,” said RISE member and Facilitator Mike Dubin.

These classes are already offered to the institute’s 1,000 members who attend regularly and the number of members only continues to grow.

“Five years ago we wondered if we would have enough classes for the space. Well now were running out of space,” said Dubin. “That’s an example of how we’ve grown and continue to attract more and more people.”

The number of RISE members is at an all-time high as baby boomers are now entering retirement. Meeting the needs of two generations has been a delicate balancing act.

“We’re now facing something we didn’t face before which is really two very different generations and their expectations are different,” said Brenda Friedman who is the RISE coordinator. “Our boomers, who are just now beginning to retire, are looking for very different types of classes than our veteran members who are perhaps in their 80’s and 90’s and have been around for a while.”

The classes offered range from Hula Dancing, Card Making, Thai Chi, Beading and French but the most popular courses, regardless of generations, are those that deal with spirituality.

“At the age that a lot of our members are they’re coming to an end of their life versus the beginning, said Friedman “They’re looking for something or seeking, if you will, what’s out there.”

The various classes are taught by instructors who are all volunteers.

“We do not pay our instructors and we have probably about 200, 250 instructors, that’s pretty sizeable for someone who’s not being paid to come out here,” said Friedman.

RISE is a grass roots organization, which means it was started by volunteers and is run by volunteers who do it out of love and out of interest.

“What were’ dealing with is passion,” said Friedman “People with a passion for their subject, people who truly love teaching, and love being around other people and that’s what RISE is built on and that’s why it’s such a wonderful place.”

RISE started in 1994 as a partnership with Rio Salado College. Although, itcaters to the needs of people in Sun City, Surprise, and other northwest valley communities, membership is open to anyone Maricopa County.

RISE members pay a one-time membership fee and are able to take as many classes as they want without worrying about grades or prerequisites.

“This is for people who want to continue learning just for the sake of it. They just come to enjoy the class. We don’t bother them with prerequisites or grades or tests. ,” said Dubin. “That’s also why our instructors come. To do the same thing… they come to enjoy.”

This story can also be found in the January 5 edition of The Tempe Republic.