Northern Center for Lifelong Learning a catalyst for local residents

MARQUETTE – The Northern Center for Lifelong Learning is once again gearing up for a new semester of classes, workshops and group sessions.

For those looking for a way to learn something new without enrolling in a program that would require a huge time commitment, the center offers plenty of opportunities.

“You don’t have to sit in a regular classroom and take an academic class to learn something,” said Sally Olsen, chairwoman of the center’s curriculum committee.

The Winter 2013 course listing is quite varied, ranging from photography to woodworking to an overview of murders committed in the Upper Peninsula.

Most classes are free to NCLL members, though some do carry a fee for any wishing to attend.

One old favorite included in this semester’s schedule is the gourmet dinner, which Olsen said is a staple of the class lineup.

“That one’s always really popular,” she said.

The food’s theme changes each term. This term, participants will be sampling French cuisine.

New to the course listing this semester is a class on genealogy. Olsen said the curriculum committee decided to add the course after seeing enough demand from the public.

“It’s more of a get acquainted, for beginners, on genealogy,” Olsen said. “That’s new because that’s pretty popular right now.”

With a wide range of course listings, Olsen said there should be something for people of all kinds. And the courses aren’t just a good way to learn a new skill, Olsen said. They also serve as an opportunity for people to socialize with other people who share the same interests.

“It gives you a venue to do things with other people, rather than trying to find someone to do something with, maybe someone wants to snowshoe or take a hike but they don’t want to do it alone,” Olsen said. “There are a lot of people that move here from other areas and they don’t know people – and I’ve talked to several people who have done that and it gives them a way to learn about the area and its history and what the area has to offer

“As we know, as one gets older, it’s important to use different parts of your brain and do things you’re not familiar with and get out of you comfort zone.”

The center doesn’t just provide a set of classes for the community, though. It also helps organize and schedule a series of group discussion. The groups meet throughout the semester, each centered around a specific topic – playing bridge, walking or hiking, discussing world politics and others – and are open to NCLL members and nonmembers alike.

“Sometimes people think of this as something for senior citizens, or people over 65, or whatever, but there really is quite a breadth of age that I have seen in these programs,” Olsen said. “It’s true that probably there are more older or senior people there because, if they’re retired, they have more time, but I’ve also seen people who’ve taken vacation days from work to (participate) because they wanted to go. It’s quite a broad range of people.”

NCLL members pay a $20 annual fee to be members. The money supports the overall operation of the organization. New members are welcome at any time during the year, though membership is not a requirement to enroll in any of the courses or group discussions offered by the center.

For more information on course offerings or when NCLL groups meet, visit the NCLL web site at A registration form for those looking to become an NCLL member can also be found on the site.

Jackie Stark can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 242.