KCC educating aging academics for 35 years

Sign him up!: Martin Smielowitz registers for classes as part of Kingsborough Community College’s My Turn program, which offers free classes to adults over 60.
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School seniors — meaning adults over age 60, not those in their last semester before graduation — signed up for classes at Kingsborough Community College on Feb. 23, through the Manhattan Beach campus’s My Turn program, which offers more than 400 classes to senior scholars free of charge.

The college launched the program 35 years ago for New Yorkers over 60 as a way to offer a free education in almost any subject, including astronomy, computer science, and history. The program allows adults to update their knowledge, or sit in on a professor’s lecture on a brand new subject, said its director.

“Some people are coming with doctorates, some with masters. It’s good relearning things because sometimes things change,” said Susan Lavin. “A great way to rejuvenate yourself.”

A former Kingsborough Community College student graduated for the first time at the age of 57 in 1974 and then went on to volunteer for My Turn — which stands for “Make Your Time Useful Right Now” — when it was first getting off the ground in the early 1980s. She and others walked around the neighborhood and visited local senior centers, handing out fliers about the program to get them to enroll, said Frances Koch, now 97.

The program is a lifesaver for many adults who are retired and don’t want to waste their days at home, said Koch.

“It saved my life when my husband died, and it saved a lot of people’s lives when they didn’t know what to do with themselves. That was the most helpful program for so many people to go back to school, some who had never been to college,” she said. “I’m going to be 98 in May, but I still would like to go school.”

Another 73-year-old is just a few credits shy of getting his diploma for a degree in computer science. He’s retired, but believes there’s no better opportunity than to continue learning.

“I’m here to keep my mind active,” said Sheepshead Bay resident Herman Walker. “It’s something that, even when I’m not able to get around, I can sit in front of a computer and keep my mind active.”

One senior student did a complete 180 to change her career — Coney Island resident Evereene Steward used to work in administration but wanted to explore the liberal arts, and began taking foreign languages and philosophy classes more than five years ago, she said.

“Been coming here since 2010, I had philosophy, anthropology, sign language, Spanish, French. Now I’m in the arts doing a bit of photography,” said Steward, 74. “I’m enjoying coming since I changed my career. It gives me the opportunity to explore my life. Makes me feel very youthful.”

Classes for the Spring semester are full, but seniors can soon register for the summer and fall semesters. It costs $80 to register with proof of living in New York. Kingsborough Community College [2001 Oriental Blvd. near Decature Ave. in Manhattan Beach,, (718) 368-5079]

Reach reporter Julianne Cuba at (718) 260–4577 or by e-mail at Follow her on Twitter @julcuba.
Updated 11:48 am, January 16, 2019
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