Happy new year! Many of us welcome 2013 with anticipation and maybe even a resolution or two. How about resolving to keep the gray matter percolating by taking a class? For those 50 and older, Oasis might be just the ticket.
The nonprofit offers classes in diverse areas such as the arts, computers and technology, wellness and humanities.
Oasis rents its main facility from the Junior League of Tucson at 2099 E. River Road and offers classes at other locations throughout the city, including the Armory Park Senior Center, Atria Bell Court Gardens and the Pima Council on Aging.
It also hosts educational events and day trips to places such as a local sanctuary for potbellied pigs.
The idea is to provide intellectual stimulation while promoting social interaction and an active lifestyle.
Some 800 students take Oasis classes each trimester. All classes are held during the day. Most classes are in the $12-$15 range, with a one-time processing fee of $12.
Seventy percent of the instructors are volunteers. All are experts in their field, with many having doctorates or other advanced degrees.
Myron Donald, 69, a retired Air Force officer, has been taking classes at Oasis for more than a decade. Starting out with ballroom dancing, he has expanded the number of classes he takes. This trimester he has taken more than 10, from Arizona history to "You Too Can Dance To It: Dick Clark & American Bandstand."
Donald has great admiration for the instructors.
"They love the subject," he said. "Many are former professors, teachers, a college president and lawyers. I also enjoy the variety of topics."
Oasis also has a tutoring program in reading and writing, partnering with many school districts, including TUSD. A training session for prospective tutors will be held Jan. 16 and 17.
Oasis also offers a program called Connections, which is designed to enhance participants' computer skills.
Founded in 1982 in St. Louis, the national organization has grown to 16 cities from New York to California. The Tucson chapter was founded in 1989.
The organization receives no state or federal funding. Only half of its expenses are covered by class and processing fees. The rest comes from private donations, foundations and other sponsors. Less than 1 percent comes from Pima County.
With only three paid staff members, including executive director David Eppihimer, Oasis is proud of its more than 200 volunteers. They work as intergenerational tutors, computer assistants, lab coaches, speakers' bureau ambassadors and much more.
Alexandra Soto, 75, has been taking Oasis classes since 2005. Retired from 18 years at the University of Arizona Bookstores, Soto praised the variety of subjects, convenient locations and excellent teachers. Her favorite subjects include writing and genealogy.
She also took part in a one-day tour of downtown Tucson, which was wrapping up when a group of javelinas passed by the group's coach - a fitting way to end the tour!
On StarNet: Read Barbara Russek's recent columns at azstarnet.com/barbararussek
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Oasis' winter trimester runs Jan. 14-April 26 (it also offers spring and summer sessions). For a list of classes, go to www.oasisnet.org/Cities/West/TucsonAZ.aspx online. To have a course catalog mailed to you, call 322-5627.
E-mail Barbara Russek at Babette2@comcast.net