Though it’s barely September, strains of “School Days, School Days” can be heard at Freedom Plaza as residents prepare to open their books – and minds – to new intellectual adventures. The catalogue of courses to be offered is being printed, class spaces are reserved and excitement is building toward this ninth year of Graduate School for Seniors.
This Freedom Plaza “school” with no credits, no grades, no tests and no homework, is one where students attend classes for the sheer joy of learning. It echoes the concept of Sun City Center’s Community Church College by no coincidence. The same person is responsible for both.
The late Robert Gingery was a long-time pastor of Sun City Center Community Church and, while there, founded Community Church College. Upon retiring from his duties and moving to Freedom Plaza, he initiated a similar educational program – Graduate School for Seniors – popularly dubbed Grad School.
The program operates under an all-resident group of trustees that ranges in number from nine to 13. These trustees are elected for two-year terms, with no limit on the number of terms they can serve. They elect their “chancellor” from among the group and their own successors. It’s the trustees’ responsibility to select subjects to be taught and to recruit qualified volunteer instructors to teach them.
Fortunately, in the wealth of former educators found within the Freedom Plaza residency, instructors are near at hand and generous in sharing their expertise.
A registration fee of $10 per course is charged to pay for educational materials, with any excess used to support the Freedom Plaza library, its Scholarship Fund or the Associate Appreciation Fund.
The forthcoming Grad School catalogue for fall will offer, as usual, a broad range of interesting courses. The fine arts will be represented by More Art 101, Instruments of the Orchestra and a drama course on acting. Science subjects will include The Universe: a Cosmic Journey, while history will be covered in Supreme Court Prominent Justices. Literature will be addressed in a course entitled Mark Twain and religion examined in Bible Study. Game skills will be challenged in Intermediate Bridge.
Perhaps the only thing missing in Grad School will be the unmistakable, unforgettable mingled scent of chalk dust and sack lunches that permeated classrooms of yesteryear. But Freedom Plaza residents, sharpening their wits as they sharpen their pencils, will probably be too busy exercising their brains and expanding their horizons to notice.
Peggy Burgess is an associate of Freedom Plaza and columnist for The Sun.