David Williams had apprehensions about going back to school at the age of 69, but that didn’t hold him back from pursuing his lifelong interest.
“I wondered if I would fit in or stick out like a sore thumb,” Williams said. “But as it turns out, I fit in very easily, everyone is welcoming to me, and I probably get more help than I deserve.”
Williams is confident he made the right decision to take advantage of a tuition waiver program at Seminole State College that allows seniors the opportunity to enrich their minds and pursue their lifelong interests.
The program, initiated by the College’s District Board of Trustees, gives Florida residents 60 and older the opportunity to take free college-credit classes if the courses are not filled at the close of registration. Since 2009, 115 waivers have been granted at Seminole State.
Pursuing his passion
As an engineer, Williams never got the chance to fulfill his passion for painting, and now he is more than grateful for the chance to find hidden talents he never knew he had.
“Everyone has been so helpful — administration has been guiding me, as well as the instructors, all the way through the process about how to get involved,” he said.
SSC painting instructor Larry Vienneau said it has been a joy teaching Williams.
“I’ve been teaching for almost 30 years, and I’ve always found that senior citizens tend to be the best students, because they waited their whole life for this,” Vienneau said. “They tend to raise the bar of the class because they are so motivated.”
Senior Mary Ann Hoyt said Seminole State’s community chorus class motivates her. It’s been a weekly destination of hers since 2002.
“It’s a wonderful outlet to be a student at my age; it just makes you feel good,” Hoyt said. “And I’m so thankful that I can utilize my talents and sing with like-minded people.”
Although these seniors are thankful for the chance to fulfill their interests later in life, Orange County’s Office and Commission on Aging program manager Mimi Reggentin said seniors that continue to learn and keep their minds active can benefit more than just themselves.
“By offering these classes, you’re really letting older adults spread their wings, and they’re helping seniors create new possibilities that could ultimately enhance their community,” she said. “And by letting them explore and learn, you are really letting them blossom.”
Williams continues to blossom with every class he attends, as he enhances talents and flourishes a little more every day.
“The thing that I try to tell my friends is that it’s an available resource for them that keeps you in the spirit, with younger people,” Williams said. “After your career is over, it’s good to come back to something you think you like to test yourself, and it’s good for your self-esteem.”