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Sound Bites - Issue #39 - November 2016

On the Cover
Debbi Harper: Brain Health Is All in the Moves

Harper is the author of Body Moves for Brain Power and The Brain BookHarper is the author of Body Moves for Brain Power and The Brain Book

Debbi Harper (center) with family and friends on her 60th birthdayDebbi Harper (center) with family and friends on her 60th birthday

LeRoy Nakamura from Media ServicesHarper started to ride dirt bikes at the age of 59

For Debbi Harper, it's all in the moves. Even though the SMC Community Ed instructor teaches brain fitness classes, they are all based in movement.

And the movements are all based on her research. And research on the brain has come up with remarkable findings, with significant ramifications for the prevention or slowdown of dementia and Alzheimer's symptoms.

Harper, with a degree in Allied Health, has worked in the fitness industry for 40 years and continues to teach brain fitness classes and Jacki Sorensen Aerobic Dance classes. In the 1990's, scientists were increasingly doing brain research, and Harper observed distinct correlations and benefits to the brain with people who participated in regular exercise. This is when she began developing her exercise program that reflected the brain research findings.

She notes that the research has come up with amazing findings, including:

  • Rigorous exercise can reduce the risk of developing symptoms of Alzheimer's by 50 percent. That means a minimum of three times a week breaking out in a sweat.
  • "The results are even better if you do a complex workout like dance, volleyball, pickleball, etc.," she says. "The more cardiovascular fit you are, the more brain fit you can be. A year of exercise can give a 70-year-old the connectivity of a 30-year-old in regards to improving memory, planning skills, dealing with ambiguity, and multi-tasking."
  • Although brain cells die, you can build new brain cells. Those new cells generated through complex physical activity (similar to Harper's "Body Moves for Brain Power" exercises) tend to thrive and often will migrate to older cells and assist their functions.
  • Dancing is one of the best brain tonics around. "Older people who dance regularly reduce their risk of dementia by 76 percent," she says, adding that this is one of the reasons she meticulously incorporates music, movement, and progression into her classes.

Beyond body moves, certain mental exercises or endeavors - such as learning a foreign language - also help. But only if you enjoy the task. 

 "If learning a new language doesn't appeal to you, find a new project you find stimulating - take a specialty cooking class, learn to play a musical instrument, restore a classic car, travel, take up golfing, join a singing group, attend a jewelry making class," Harper says. "Thought-provoking and enjoyable activities benefit the brain tremendously."

Nutrition and socializing are also key to brain health. "Those who make quality lifestyle choices have a better chance of combatting the inevitable challenges of aging," she says.

Harper is the perfect role model for what she preaches. The 61-year-old mother of two and grandmother of five stays active not only through the physical fitness and dance classes she teaches, but also through participating in water sports in Canyon Lake, the Riverside County community where she lives with Marty, her husband of 40 years. She is also the author of "The Brain Book" and originator of the DVD and program "Body Moves for Brain Power."

Although it's a long commute for her, Harper says she enjoys teaching in Santa Monica because so many residents in the city and surrounding communities have a keen interest in health and are willing to take constructive actions.

Says Harper, "SMC Community Ed serves a group of people who genuinely want to learn."

Tell us one to three things that most people don't know about you.

I started to ride dirt bikes at 59 years old.  I have an old (but beautiful) Honda Trail 90 that I ride in the hills off of the Ortega Highway as well as off-road in Death Valley.

I have a fear of heights when I'm near cliffs, but I love traveling in airplanes.  Regardless if it's for business or pleasure, I love driving to the airport, I love walking around the airport, I love waiting for my plane, I love the flight, and I love arriving at a new airport.  I think I love the new experiences that await with each flight I take.

 "That is what I like about traveling - you can sit down, maybe talk to someone interesting, see something beautiful, read a book and that's enough to qualify as a good day.  You do that at home and everyone thinks you're a bum."- Richard Linklater and Kim Krazen in "Before Sunrise" screenplay 1995.

What is your idea of a perfect day?

Well, my first thought went to snorkeling at Poipu Beach in Kauai. Then I got to realizing even when I'm there I often miss my sweet grandchildren. As corny as it is, my favorite days are when I have one or more of the grandkids. I get to snuggle, play, hold their little hands, look at their sweet faces, and enjoy their exhuberance for life.

What is one of the best compliments you ever received? 

One of the best compliments was that the class I taught was inspiring and that I taught with great energy and passion. Those are traits I strive for when teaching and it was great to hear them appreciated from students. 

What book(s) are on your nightstand now?

"A Man Called Ove" and "What's a Rassie?"

Debbi Harper will teach The Brain Class - Change Your Mind on January 28, 2017. She will teach Body Moves for Brain Power next spring.

What's New
Winter Session Around the Corner!

Alice Meyering

One of the new classes offered this winter is Modern Dance One of the new classes offered this winter is Modern Dance

Offered for the first time is Plein Air Outdoor Watercolor PaintingOffered for the first time is Plein Air Outdoor Watercolor Painting

from the desk of Alice Meyering
I'm excited to announce that we are offering a robust and diverse offering of classes for the Winter 2017 session, with more than 100 courses, tours and workshops. Registration is open online at

We've added a number of classes this winter, particularly in art, in response to demand from our community. Our winter session begins Jan. 3, so we encourage you to enroll as soon as possible.

As always, we are offering a wide range of personal enrichment classes, from the arts to fitness, from writing to gardening, and from music to dance, performance and film.

At the same time, we are expanding our professional development courses in a wide range of fields, from business to social media to paralegal and much more. For example, Community Ed is now offering a Certificate in QuickBooks if you sign up for QuickBooks Part I and QuickBooks Part II. And two new Spanish classes are career/professional development oriented courses: Spanish for Real Estate and Spanish for Criminal Justice.

New personal enrichment classes being offered in the Winter Session include:

Registration is open and can be completed online at or by calling (310) 434-3400 or emailing

Behind the Scenes:
How To Overcome Fear of Public Speaking

Public Speaking

Rev. Dr. Louise-Diana teaches several classes at SMC Community EdRev. Dr. Louise-Diana teaches several classes at SMC Community Ed

Dr. Louise-Diana won Best of LA awardDr. Louise-Diana won Best of LA award"

By Rev. Dr. Louise-Diana

Fear of public speaking is a common phobia. It can range from slight nervousness to paralyzing fear and panic. Many people with a fear of public speaking avoid public speaking situations altogether, or they suffer through them with shaking hands and a quavering voice. But with preparation and persistence, you can overcome your fear.

These steps may help:

  • Know your topic. The better you understand what you're talking about - and the more you care about the topic - the less likely you'll make a mistake or get off track. And if you do get lost, you'll be able to recover quickly. Take some time to consider what questions the audience may ask and have your responses ready.
  • Get organized. Ahead of time, carefully plan out the information you want to present, including any props, audio or visual aids you'll use. The more organized you are, the less nervous you'll be. Use an outline on a small card to keep yourself on track. If possible, take time to visit the place where you'll be speaking and review available equipment before your presentation.
  • Practice, and then practice some more. Practice your complete presentation several times. Do it for a few people you're comfortable with. Ask them to give you feedback. Or, record it with a video camera and watch it so that you can see opportunities for improvement.
  • Visualize your success. Imagine that your presentation will go well. Positive thoughts can help decrease some of your negativity about your social performance and relieve some anxiety.
  • Do some deep breathing. This can be very calming. Take two or more deep, slow breaths before you get up to the podium and during your speech.
  • Focus on your material, not on your audience. People mainly pay attention to new information - not how it's presented. They may not notice your nervousness. If audience members do notice that you're nervous, they may root for you and want your presentation to be a success.
  • Don't be afraid of a moment of silence. If you lose track of what you're saying or you begin to feel nervous and your mind goes blank, it can seem like you've stopped talking for an eternity. But in reality, it's probably only a few seconds. Even if it's longer, it's likely your audience won't mind a pause to consider what you've been saying. This might be a good time to take a few slow, deep breaths.
  • Recognize your success. After your speech or presentation, give yourself a pat on the back. It may not have been perfect, but chances are you're far more critical of yourself than your audience is. Everyone makes mistakes during speeches or presentations. Look at any mistakes you made as an opportunity to improve your skills.
  • Get support. Join a group that offers support for people who have difficulty with public speaking. One effective resource is Toastmasters, a nonprofit organization with local chapters that focuses on training people in speaking and leadership skills.

Most important, when speaking be your most authentic self.

Rev. Dr. Louise-Diana teaches several classes at SMC Community Education, including "Fear of Public Speaking - How to Overcome It."

So Much To Be Thankful for at Community Ed

Michelle King Michelle King, Director Career & Contract Ed.

We are thankful for our student workers and staffWe are thankful for our student workers and staff

We are thankful for our wonderful students and instructorsWe are thankful for our wonderful students and instructors

With Thanksgiving just a few days away, we at SMC Community Education want to list the things for which we are grateful:

  1. Our dedicated students who take our classes and provide constructive feedback.
  2. Our wonderful instructors who are dedicated to sharing their knowledge with the broader community.
  3. Our incredible staff members, Alice Meyering and Jocelyn Winn, who make sure the ship is sailing smoothly despite sometimes immense challenges.
  4. Our new training room, located in Bundy 436, which has allowed us the opportunity to expand our offerings.
  5. New equipment, including computers and 3D printers, which will support new courses and career training opportunities.
  6. The continued support of the Dean of Workforce and Economic Development Patricia G. Ramos, Ed.D.
  7. Our community partners, BankWorks and SimpliLearn, whose partnership supports our efforts to expand career-training opportunities.
  8. Our long-term partners, Ed2go and Market Motive, who  support our efforts to reach and serve students remotely.
  9. Our bright and energetic student workers who help us operate effectively.
  10. Our Vice President of Academic Affairs Georgia Lorenz, who listens to our requests and makes efforts to strengthen and support the program.
  11. The SMC Board of Trustees, whose members consistently express their appreciation of Community Ed and who actively promote "Lifelong Learning" throughout the community.

Warm regards,

Michelle King
Director of Career & Contract Education