Dozens more classes offered to villagers

Sherri Bassham, of the Village of Duval, moves through a routine during a yoga class.

Get ready to take a peek at courses you can take to enrich your lifestyle. The Enrichment Academy is going into its third year, and everyone can view the course catalog starting Thursday for the upcoming fall/winter semester. The catalog will be available at all recreation centers and online at districtgov.org/departments/Recreation/enrichment-academy/. About 110 instructors will teach about 290 courses from October through March, an increase from 90 instructors who taught 216 courses during the last two semesters. Interested students will have a chance to meet instructors and learn about the available courses at the Enrichment Academy’s Learn and Grow Expo from

9 to 11 a.m. Sept. 12 at Lake Miona Recreation Center.

The event is free and open to the public and will include drawings for prizes and a free course, as well as two live speaker events at 9 a.m. and 10 a.m. 

“It’s a great opportunity for attendees to see what our program is all about, ask questions and engage with instructors and staff,” said Melanie Sarakinis, recreation manager with the Enrichment Academy.

Residents can start signing up for courses at 9 a.m. Sept. 12 online or at any regional recreation center. Registration for the general public will start at 8:30 a.m. Sept. 16 online, at regional recreation centers or by mail to 984 Old Mill Run, The Villages, FL, 32162.

A wide variety of subjects will be offered for both residents and nonresidents, including art, dance, history, language and music.

Sarakinis said something new has been added to each category.

She said there are many additions to the health-and-wellness category, including fitness-type courses, and there also are new courses in the history, hobby, photography and technology categories.

Some new courses include High Energy Aquatic Training (HEAT), yoga, meditation, violin, digital photography and drones.

In addition to courses available to the public, the academy also has a Speaker Series where people visit from around the country to speak on various topics. A list of the upcoming guest speakers will be in the catalog.

Sarakinis said the Enrichment Academy has been successful since it started in October 2017.

“Our residents love to live, learn and engage with others,” she said. “Learning is one of those pillars that provides endless opportunities for residents to learn, grow and enhance lifestyle opportunities.”

Bill and Patti Thompson, of the Village of Pinellas, have been teaching various levels of guitar and piano classes since the very beginning of the academy.

Bill used to serve as a band and choral director, and Patti used to teach music.

After 30 years of teaching, they had a desire to continue sharing what they know in The Villages.

“We’re sharing our skills and passion for music with others,” Patti said. “It’s the gift of music.”

She said they enjoy teaching classes through the Enrichment Academy because of what the students get out of the classes.

“When I see our students start playing, there’s this excitement that forms,” she said. “They’re crazy about it, and they can’t wait for the next class.”

While Bill and Patti teach their music classes, the academy has several other opportunities for residents and nonresidents to learn something new.

“This is vital for the community,” Patti said. “It is a lifelong learning opportunity.”

Teri Lee, of the Village of Mallory Square, also expressed her love for teaching classes through the academy.

She has taught Dance of Yoga and Ageless Grace since the academy started, and she will add a chair yoga class next semester.

Her Dance of Yoga class allows participants to do standing yoga poses that flow to instrumental music, and participants in the Ageless Grace class sit in chairs and work on brain fitness.

She said she enjoys seeing her students improve with each class.

“It’s extremely rewarding to see people progress,” she said.

Since moving to The Villages last year, Karen Auman has learned several skills through the academy, including mah-jongg, line-dancing and piano.

“I always wanted to play the piano, and I felt that doing it in a group setting might be a good thing,” said Auman, of the Village of Hadley. “It was easy, accessible and affordable.”

She also said she liked the size of the classes because she was able to get individual instruction, and she made friends along the way.

“It’s a great way to meet other people who have the same interests as you,” she said. “I think it’s great that we have this opportunity to learn new things or expand on things you already know.”

New to the Enrichment Academy, Bonnie Stein will start teaching beginning race walking during the upcoming semester.

She has taught race-walking classes all around the country for 29 years, and she looks forward to sharing this Olympic sport with the community.

Having recently moved to the area, she said it makes sense to share her passion through the academy.

“People are always looking to enhance their lives here in The Villages,” said Stein, of the Village of Poinciana. “With the beautiful paths and places for people to walk, this is the perfect place to learn race walking.”

Stein said she will teach participants to enhance their walking at the pace that is right for them, all while receiving benefits of better posture and less pain in the back, knees or hips.

“If you’re going to be walking anyway, why not get the most bang out of your walking buck?” she said.

Staff writer Rachel Stuart can be reached at 352-753-1119, ext. 5390, or rachel.stuart@thevillagesmedia.com.