Lifelong learning thrives at Palo Alto

By Jasmine Treviño
Pulse Staff Reporter

JTrevino
Mary Lance, Professor Cakky Brawley and Dixie Yarbrough take a break from the ceramic mural project that will be permanently displayed in the Ozuna Library. Photo by Jasmine Treviño.

Palo Alto College is home to a very diverse student body. Our students not only consist of young adults, but 2 percent of them are returning adults who are over the age of 65.

Mary Lance, a 75-year-old student at PAC, described her experience in the continuing education program as rewarding, exhilarating and artistically rich. Lance describes herself as a lifelong student who never wants to stop learning. She believes that no matter your age, it’s very important to continue to learn.

With a background in journalism, Lance was a former freelance reporter for the San Antonio Express-News. She is currently taking a ceramics class with her good friend Dixie Yarbrough, also 75, who is a former educator. Yarbrough was vice principal at McCollum High School and principal at Adams Elementary.

After retiring in 1997, Yarbrough and her husband bought an RV and travelled the U.S. She later decided that she wasn’t done learning, so she signed up for classes at St. Philip’s College and earned her LVN. Immediately after earning her LVN, she signed up for a mission trip to help people in Haiti. Yarbrough, who still works part-time at a nursing home, says her experience with the continuing education program has been wonderful, and she would love to continue to learn.

With ceramics being their favorite subject, this semester is a big deal. The class is working on a 8 feet x 12 feet ceramic mural commissioned by the city’s poet laureate and former PAC student, Laurie Ann Guerrero. The mural is a collaborative piece based on the poems of Guerrero.

Ceramics instructor Cakky Brawley allowed the students to give insight on what should go in the mural. She then drew the final project. Everyone in the class was assigned an area to work on. Lance and Yarbrough have been hard at work and are very proud of what they’ve done so far; they praised Brawley for allowing the students to have artistic freedom.

Lance added, “She embodies the best of what a good teacher is.”

The City of San Antonio funded the ceramic mural that will be displayed inside the Ozuna Library at Palo Alto College. The students involved in the CE program have had trouble enrolling in the upcoming fall semester. Brawley added, prior to the trouble with enrollment, the program has been wonderful and enriching.

“Continuing education students influence my other students by bringing in a wealth of experience,” said Brawley.

Kassandra Sanchez, a student at PAC, added Mary and Dixie are so nice, open, and helpful. “The experience and style they’ve developed is really awesome to witness,” said Sanchez. She said seeing older people in school makes her feel like it’s possible to be the lifelong learner she hopes to be.

Lance thinks that PAC should advertise the continuing education program more; she believes that many people don’t know about it. One of the goals of the Alamo Colleges is to develop lifelong learners, and this program is a perfect example of that, she said. It allows elders to keep not only physically, but mentally, active.