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Updated: November 02, 2015

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Stimulating Lifelong Education for College Students of All Ages & Abilities

A Journey Toward Self-Awareness Begins with Fridays@Foothill Program

To meet its mandate for inclusiveness, Foothill College offers quality courses to a variety of underserved groups, including seniors with memory, mobility and other impairments; retiring baby boomers; and those with cognitive and developmental disabilities.

The new Fridays@Foothill program provides learning opportunities for students with disabilities who are not ready for employment or higher education. The goal of the program's non-credit courses is to expand students’ intellectual horizons, sharpen their social skills, lessen the stigma of feeling marginalized, and challenge them to find their best fit in society.

“I’m proud of Foothill’s commitment to provide stimulating non-credit leisure education and lifelong learning opportunities to non-traditional students of all ages and abilities,” says Foothill College Community-Based Education and Transition to Work Instructor Ken Peterson, M.A. “I struggled as a learner myself, so I feel tremendous solidarity with my students.”

Students who participate in Fridays@Foothill courses are ages 18 to 50, with moderate to severe disabilities, which may range from acquired brain injuries to mobility constraints to dyslexia. They may live with family or be clients of group homes or social services agencies that provide independent learning opportunities, and many attend class meetings with their professional caregivers.

“Fridays@Foothill invites students to become invested in everything from careers and vocations to music, humor, art, literature, history, cooking, geography, science, and even key events from the news cycle,” Peterson says. “Students begin to feel comfortable asking and answering questions like ‘who am I, what interests me, where am I going, how will I reach my goal, where do I fit in the world of work, and how do I deliver more value to my life and my community.’ It's part of a journey to self-awareness that's facilitated by intellectual enrichment and education.”

The 12-week program meets each quarter and emphasizes discussion and activity topics such as current events, arts appreciation, travel, history and culture. Students who participate in the program demonstrate more verbal and social interaction, show creativity, and engage in problem-solving and collaboration with their peers.

Peterson uses a flipped classroom approach to teach, which calls for him to serve as a group facilitator while the students take charge of cognitively stimulating instructional activities, including reading, discussion, interactive games, videos and preparing thoughtful commentary to discuss with classmates. As a group, the students select topics that interest them then collaborate to conduct research, create PowerPoint presentations, and present their findings to the entire class.

For example, this spring, students studied the impact of California's drought, particularly how the drought would affect the group’s contributions to Foothill's on-campus garden. Students conducted research and held problem-solving discussions to determine the best way to plant the garden, maximize its low-water harvest of onions and gladiolas, and use effective water conservation methods, including turning off sprinkler systems in favor of watering by hand.

The overall goal is to support students as they participate in collaborative and individual assignments. Each quarter emphasizes a new class topic: music and theater appreciation are explored during Fall Quarter; travel, history and world cultures are studied during Winter Quarter; and Spring Quarter focuses on current events such as California’s drought.

“Students with disabilities deserve an education,” Peterson says. “They deserve to be challenged. They deserve to participate in introspective thought and intellectual enrichment. Sadly, for many adults with disabilities, educational and avocational opportunities tend to dry up after grade 12. Too often, these students are warehoused and forgotten. At Foothill College, we provide college for everyone, and as a college, we've set the bar high for inclusiveness.”

Each two-hour class meeting begins with lunch and arts appreciation activities. Students then participate in class projects and campus life activities. This fall, Fridays@Foothill will meet Fridays, Sept. 25–Dec. 11, from 12:30 to 2:20 p.m. in the on-campus Disability Resource Center (Room 5400). There is no charge to register and the non-credit class is free. To learn more about the Fridays@Foothill Program or to register, call or e-mail Adaptive Learning Department Assistant Julie Brown at (650) 949-7103 or

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