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A community event to remember


Adult Enrichment Coordinator Gretchen Carlson shares her experience from October 13th at the Marketplace of Learning event at Cottage Grove Middle School. 


I watched while she carefully poured the coffee … Ethiopian coffee … into tiny, delicate tea cups she had brought. Next to this, she had placed colorful handmade African baskets with lids open to display various coffee beans. Ethiopia is known for being the birthplace of coffee, so it is not a surprise that coffee is central to its culture. Woinshet, a student in Community Ed’s Great Rivers’ Adult Education (ABE) Consortium brought her traditional coffee to share with the community at the Oct. 13th Gentle Saturday/Marketplace of Learning event. She is learning English in our ABE program. The ABE coordinator had a wonderful quote which is shared at the end.

If you walked down the hallway at Cottage Grove MS, you would find a wonderfully eclectic mix of learning happening.

Among them was longtime instructor Don Cosgrove who was teaching people the skills they needed to “Get Paid to Read”. Troy Nowicki's room was filled with the warmth and aroma of Christmas cookies for those who want their holiday baking done early. Dr. Mary Fischer was helping people to experience the benefits of group hypnosis. And Leslie Granbeck was teaching people the unique process of wool felting.

During the lunch hour, the commons was transformed into a sort of farmer’s market, minus the zucchini and fresh corn, of course. Instead, our marketplace canopies formed the setting for our instructors to showcase their offerings. Attendees visited with 15+ instructors who made time to share their talents. Here is a sampling:

Jan Gunderson demonstrated how to use alcohol inks on ceramic tile. The process was easy. The result? Imagine a splash of wild, vivid color cascading across the surface. She had sharpies available to add a meaningful word or two to the final piece. Participants loved it.

Hippies at Home – This mom and daughters trio were eager to bring their environmentally-friendly, all-natural products to our program for a “make and take class” coming this winter. They brought healthy ingredients and showed people how easy it is to make their own all-natural kitchen dishwashing tabs. Their enthusiasm was contagious … but their products will keep the germs away.

Li Sun had bacon, garlic and onion sizzling in the pan as she demonstrated how to make Chinese Bacon Fried Rice. Hint: The egg is poured on after the bacon is cooked and before the rice is added in.

Colleen Vickerman led a lively Free Community Zumba class in the cafetorium.

What other type of magic happens when people engage in community? Divine appointments.

I heard about two mothers from vastly different cultures who connected at one of the tables and found out they both had a young child with Downs Syndrome. This instant, yet unexpected, connection between mothers from diverse backgrounds is what community is all about.

Next, I watched in amazement when two people I know met. I had the privilege of introducing one of our instructors to a one of our Community Ed staff named Josh, who has been open about his addiction and successful recovery. The instructor, Michael, had been scheduled to co-facilitate a support group for parents of kids with addiction. Upon hearing Josh’s name, the instructor’s face beamed with surprise, he reached out his hand, and said that he had just heard the podcast where Josh had been interviewed this past week by Hazelden Treatment Center. An exciting connection! They exchanged information and Josh has been invited by Michael to be interviewed on his podcast for parents in the future.

This event reminded me of what COMMUNITY looks like.

We learn from each other. We bring our collective talents into a public space and share them. We experience more than we anticipate, and that leaves us stronger and more connected. We enrich each others’ lives, and we learn. That’s what our Community Education’s Adult Enrichment program is all about.

We hope you’ll join us for the next one. Save the date for Saturday, March 30th. Contact me if you have expertise to share or an idea for a future class. We want our program to meet your needs. We’re local. Quality. And affordable. Our instructors have a storehouse of knowledge and enthusiasm to share.

We also plan to continue to partner with our Great Rivers Adult Basic Education program participants who had a wealth of food & culture to share.

Big thanks to our Community Ed staff.

What an awesome team we have! Mary Meier, Josh Chilton, Rebecca Kropelnicki, Sherrie Rohr, Mike Monahan and Carrie Olson each worked hard both in the planning and at the event. Special thanks also to Becca Bair and ABE instructors Heather Ferguson and Eileen Ruess for coordinating the ABE students to join us. A special thanks to Community Ed Director Bob Lawrence for his continued support as we take risks to bring new programming ideas to the community.

Thanks also goes to Emma Freeman, one of our Create instructors, who donated a handmade nature print for one of our prize drawings. And thanks also go to Bruce Lundquist, longtime custodian at Cottage Grove Middle, who always has a positive attitude and makes things run smoothly.

This is what Heather Ferguson, our ABE teacher had to say:

“This opportunity for our students at Great Rivers Adult Education program has been wonderful. They shared food and drink from their culture, and it has made them very proud. 

People came up and asked questions, and they could share a little about their culture and their food, plus they had the opportunity to practice their English skills with the people in the community. So I think it has been a win win for everyone – for the students and the community … to learn about the various cultures that we have in District 833.”