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Sound Bites - Issue #30 - February 2016

On the Cover 
State-Funded Job Training Opportunities

Michelle King Michelle King, Director Career & Contract Ed.

More than 55 people attended our workshop on state-funded job training opportunities

JVS's Brian Halili and I explain job assistance and career training opportunities

Felicity, 51, was laid off from her administrative assistant job in the entertainment industry three months ago and wants to pursue a career in medical billing or nursing.

William, 61, was laid off from his university admissions position four years ago. He's wiped out half his savings though he has applied for many jobs and holds a Master's of Business Administration degree. He believes employers reject him either because he is overqualified for positions and/or because of his age (one prospective employer told him, at the beginning of an interview, "God you look so old.")

(Read related article in the Santa Monica Daily Press.)

Felicity and William are just two of the 55-plus people who attended our recent workshop on state-funded job training opportunities, which we co-sponsored with JVS' (Jewish Vocational Services) WorkSource Center. Although geared mostly to recently unemployed people, the session attracted many who wanted to learn how they could possibly benefit from the state funded employment training resources made available for adults and dislocated workers through the California's Eligible Training Provider List (ETPL).

As an approved ETPL provider, Santa Monica College has available several certificate training programs that are specifically designed for individuals seeking to gain marketable job skills.

The workshop and the collaboration with the JVS WorkSource Center is one component of SMC Community Education's strategy to expand its job training and professional development programming. Towards this effort, the department has released its SMC Extension catalog which provides full in-depth program descriptions of our professional development and short-term, not-for-credit career training and certificate programs. Many of our classes are ongoing and scheduled to meet the needs of non-traditional students.  The SMC Extension programming offers flexibly on week days, evenings and weekends, with some courses offered online.

The JVS WorkSource Center offers job training, mentoring, education, and expert career guidance to unemployed, underemployed and employed Los Angeles area residents. They also offer many services "wrap-around" employment assistance services, including referrals to job training programs, such as those offered at SMC; resume and interview preparation; financial assistance for clothing, shoes, gas and sometimes housing; as well as job placement services.

By jointly sponsoring the workshop, we were aiming to leverage the information session to give individuals a full understanding of the various resources and employment training available, while also directing them thru the process.  While not everyone who attended the information session was deemed eligible for the current funding, all benefited from gaining valuable information about other funding sources and employment assistance resources.

The success of the program and the feedback received has convinced us that our efforts in this direction are needed.  Therefore we will repeat this type of information session with JVS and will seek out other community partners to extend our reach into the community.

For more information, please contact me at 310-434-3323.

Warm regards,

Michelle King
Director of Career & Contract Education

What's New
Open House a Huge Success!

Alice Meyering

Fitness instructor Jackline Daneshrad (right) talks to a prospective student

People line up to register for classes, $8,200 in total transactions

from the desk of Alice Meyering

When I think about the Open House held last month, I still cannot believe the palpable energy, enthusiasm and excitement of our instructors and attendees on that day. 

The forecast for January 23 was less than fortuitous—rain it said—and we were bracing ourselves for El Niño on the day of our Annual Open House. However, we were determined, rain or shine, the show must go on. 

More than 20 instructors volunteered to take a plunge with me, on hand at tables to allow prospective students and others to ask questions and get a sense of the diverse mix of courses we offer. Ten of those instructors made excellent presentations on their classes and – in the case of our dance and fitness instructors – got our audience on their feet to learn some basic and fun movements.

(See Photos of the Open House here.)

I am happy to report that our persistence paid off! In all, we drew approximately 120 visitors to the event – including, we're pleased to say, SMC Trustee Louise Jaffe. The unexpected high turnout and brisk registration pace kept us hopping without a moment's rest!

In a few short hours, we completed more than $8,200 worth of transactions, with the majority of the registrations for multiple classes. Among the students who registered on that day, some were first-time students, others were returning.

Take first-timer Sergio Cornejo of Santa Monica, who was enrolling in Paul Heising's "Passport to Retirement" class. A Verizon telecommunications technician for the past 37 years, Cornejo said he wanted guidance and information to help him decide when and how to retire. "If I can get one piece of useful information, that will help a lot," he said. 

And then there were Cheryl Gourgouris and Farinaz Taidi, standing patiently in line to enroll – yet again – for Monona Wali's Creative Writing Workshop, both expressing their devotion to the class and the instructor. "Monona has a great vision," Taidi said. "The direction she gives us is right to the point. Class is also a safe place."  

The overwhelmingly positive response we received on that wonderful day was an affirmation that we're giving the community what they want. As Gourgouris told me later, "I feel privileged to have a resource like this in our community."

To all the Sergios, Cheryls and Farinazes out there among the thousands of students we serve, all I can say, in return, is that I feel privileged to serve and enrich the lives of the enthusiastic and supportive individuals like you. You inspire me to do better and do more for this community of ours. Thank you all who came to our Open House – and look for a bigger and better one in 2017!

In Depth:
Movement is Crucial for Brain Health

Debbie HarperDebbie Harper

Debbie demonstrates brain movesDebbie Harper demonstrates brain moves

By Debbi Harper
Instructor, "Body Moves for Brain Power" & "The Brain Class – Change Your Mind"

Movement is so crucial to brain health that some of the cognitive changes blamed on aging may in fact be the result of inactivity. Indeed, research is showing that movement and certain activities help decrease the onset of Alzheimer's symptoms. 

Neurons are a type of brain cell, but they are not like other cells in the body. Skin cells, blood cells, muscle cells all have the ability to divide and reproduce themselves. Brain cells do not. But we can build brand new brain cells with new activities and physical activity. This, in turn, will build the brain's cognitive reserve.

As the long-time instructor for "Body Moves for Brain Power," I know that by doing these brain activities in a classroom setting we are "putting the icing on the cake" by adding the element of social interaction. The combining of physical movement with learning and social interaction seems to be the best combination for developing cognitive reserve.

Cognitive reserve is a powerful tool in healthy aging. Studies show that diverse, mentally stimulating tasks result in more brain cells, more robust connections among those cells and a greater ability to bypass age- or disease-related trouble spots in the brain. 

The more physical and mental exercise you get, the more brain cells you grow, the longer they survive, the better they connect with other nerve cells, and the greater your cognitive reserve. The greater your reserve, the greater your ability to withstand the inevitable challenges of aging.

Activities in my class force the brain to work hard. This hard brainwork will help increase the blood flow to the brain as well as well as increase the release of BDNF. BDNF is that wonderful brain-derived neurotropic factor that helps start the process of producing new brain cells and helps protect the existing brain cells from injury and deterioration.

A portion of my class involves seated rhythmic moves coordinated with some great music. (No worries...these are easy moves but they will give brains a great workout!). 

Why do the moves to music? The New England Journal of Medicine published a clinical report that showed older people who danced regularly decreased their risk of dementia by 76 percent! So, in my class, we do moves in the chair that get the brain dancing!

Is it really that important to move? Yes!  Simple aerobic exercise done on a regular basis can improve functions in the brain by up to 20 percent. Art Kramer of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign has found that a year of exercise can give a 70-year-old the connectivity of a 30-year-old in regards to improving memory, planning, dealing with ambiguity, and with multi-tasking.

In the words of Elvis Presley from his song A Little Less Conversation – "A little less conversation and a little more action please. Grab your coat and let's start walking." 

Who knew Elvis Presley had such a grasp on fitness and brain health!

Debbi Harper will teach "The Brain Class – Change Your Mind," which incorporates "Body Moves for Brain Power" principles, on Feb. 27. She recommends that students consult their healthcare provider before beginning this or any other exercise program.

Photo Contest! Send Us Your Best Shot!

Dean Reyes' stunning image of Griffith Observatory won the 2015 Photo Contest

Characteristically: Susan Jackson's "Shoes" - 2015 finalist

Andy House's "Sunset & Smoke" - 2015 finalist

SMC Community Education is excited to announce its Second Annual Photo Contest, and the winning image will be the cover of the Fall 2016 class schedule.

Prizes will be awarded for the winner, first runner-up and second runner-up: $75, $50 and $25 credit vouchers, respectively, for Community Ed classes. In addition, the images will be used in our monthly newsletter, Sound Bites, as well as on social media.

"Last year we were overwhelmed by the quality of the submissions we received, more than 60 in all," said Alice Meyering, Program Coordinator of Community & Contract Education. "This year we hope to receive even more entries and we are excited to see the incredible talent of our students."

The rules are simple:

  • The contest is open to all current and former Community Education students
  • Images should be submitted by 5 p.m. (PST) May 1, 2016 to
  • Up to to 5 images per contestant may be submitted
  • Photo sizes should be 8"x10" to ensure quality of the image, with at least 300dpi; photos can be both horizontal or vertical
  • Contestants please include your name as registered at Community Ed, as well as the title of each work submitted, and any information about the photo you want to include – where it was shot and whether it was taken as part of a Community Ed class, etc.
  • No image manipulation beyond exposure or color correction and minor cropping for content

Judging will be in three parts:

  1. A panel of professionals will pick 10 semi-finalist images submitted by 10 different photographers.
  2. A second panel will select 3 finalists from those 10 photos.
  3. Public online voting will take place May 23-28 to pick the winner and runners-up. The winner and runners-up will be announced shortly after the end of the public voting.

If you have questions, please email or call (310) 434-3400.

Share your vision with us – and good luck!