Historically, one of the earliest programs offered by Community Education is its Adult Enrichment program. Back in the 1960’s, citizens in Flint Michigan realized that one of their community’s most valuable assets, its school buildings, were sitting dark and empty in the evenings after school children went home. With a bold vision to maximize their resources, the “lighted schoolhouse” concept of Community Education was born. Local educators and politicians quickly realized the potential, and Minnesota became a national leader in Community Education.
Non-credit programs were developed which would provide opportunities for adults to gain new skills and knowledge while building strong connections and empowering the community. Common categories of classes include:
Classes are typically offered in the evenings with some daytime offerings as well. They often are single session opportunities, although some topics lend themselves to multiple sessions. Weekend events are occasionally scheduled for topics needing a full day of content or that offer a mix of classes all in one day.
Offering larger special events for adults or a broader audience of families is common as well. Whether it’s partnering with other coordinators to offer a Daddy Daughter Dance, a free pork chop community dinner, a TEDx event, or a district wellness challenge; the sky is the limit for creative ways to offer programming that meets community needs. Adult Enrichment coordinators are urged to stay relevant by engaging with new populations in their communities, inviting participants to focus groups, looking for fresh ways to package or deliver content, build partnerships with local businesses and organizations, and make a space for those with new ideas to share. Seeking innovative ways to bring education to the community is a key to successful programming.
Unlike traditional educational programs, Adult Enrichment instructors do not need a teaching license nor specific background to be hired. The beauty of this approach is that it makes the program accessible to people who might never have the opportunity to teach. Instructors are sought out for their expertise, years of experience, and desire to teach what they are passionate about. Local people give the gift of their knowledge and expertise to neighbors in their community. Coordinators are free to hire others in nearby communities, across the state, or even national experts to add to their lineup.