Community Education celebrates 40 years

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The Forest Lake school district Community Education department is 40 years old, and has grown with the times.

In 1973, the program offerings fit on a one-page flier inserted into the newspaper. Today, the Community Education catalog has more than 40 pages and offers opportunities for all ages, from infants to retirees.

“Our mission of meeting community needs is taken very seriously,” Julie Ohman, director of Community Education, said. “We work constantly to improve the programs, to stay current with the needs of the Forest Lake area.”

With the coming of another decade, Ohman wants to reach out even further. She is striving to get all residents in the district involved with some portion of Community Education. “Learning is a lifelong process, and we hope everyone will find something to participate in that will be meaningful to them,” she said.

“We really hope to connect with all residents, not just those who have school-age children,” said Technology Coordinator Amy Florin, who has been with the department for 20 years.

“Our school district is a community resource, and Community Education is proud to be part of the district,” Ohman added. “Many people have come to rely on Community Education as a source of information.”

Nancy DeMarais, who has been with Community Education for 17 years, said she receives calls for all kinds of information. “Once I received a phone call with an inquiry about when daylight savings starts,” she said.

Not a problem: Ohman responded, “I’m glad we’re seen as a ‘go to’ place for people who need help and information.”

Many areas of the department are growing. The youth athletics program kicked off football season this fall with twice the number of teams as last year. Stephanie Groff, youth athletics coordinator, credits that to the hard-working staff and many wonderful volunteers. “We couldn’t do it without them,” she said.

Participation in adult fitness classes is also growing. Laurie Drolson, adult and secondary youth programs coordinator, is thrilled to work with many area fitness professionals who partner with Community Education to offer dynamic and popular classes.

As Community Education grows, the programs have to undergo changes to stay current. The School Age Care program, led by Coordinator Nancy Blocher and Assistant Coordinator Nancy Siefert, provides approximately 700 children with care before and after school, on non-school days and during the summer. The program has recently added technology and science activities to support the learning that takes place during the school day.

Community Education’s Early Childhood program recently offered an early learning readiness educational summit  for area professionals who work with preschool aged children.

It was “a wonderful evening that increased our connections within the community, while providing professionals with important information about preparing children and their families for kindergarten,” according to Kate Andersen, early childhood program coordinator.

Special events planned

To celebrate its four decades in the Forest Lake school district, this year the Community Education department will sponsor a series of special events.

Check the Community Education e-newsletters for happenings in early childhood, youth athletics and enrichment, aquatics, adult fitness, driver education and School Age Care.

To kick off the year-long birthday party, Community Education entered a float in the 4th of July parade. Sue Griffin, aquatics supervisor, organized a group of lifeguards to march in the parade.

Youth baseball players, parents and employees also represented Community Education in the parade and garnered the parade’s Hometown Pride award.

The department has chosen to celebrate its birthday in conjunction with National Community Education Day on Tuesday, Nov. 12.

Beginning at 7 p.m., an appreciation event in the Forest Lake High School media center will honor past and present volunteers, staff and participants.

Everyone from the community is invited to hear a short program and eat cake.

For more information visit www.flaschools.org or call 651-982-8110.

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