Separate from traditional semester course offerings, there’s a whole other world of enrichment available to Orange Coast College’s surrounding community.

OCC’s community education course catalog offers everything from jewelry making to blacksmithing to cosmetic certification and more. Between foreign language courses, auto repair classes, cooking classes and swimming lessons — OCC community education has a niche to offer for everyone of all ages.

“I think it’s a very valuable asset to our community and it’s open to anyone and everyone. I have a high school student in my class, and I have one student who’s 73 and had to stop because of arthritis in his hands,” community education instructor Joy Fire said.

Fire found herself taking a machinery class during OCC’s regular semester schedule when she decided she needed to bring her craft of metalwork to the campus, and her blacksmithing community education courses were born.

Between the students, teachers and even coordinators at the college administration level, all involved in community education believe in the value of educational enrichment and giving back to the community.

“I feel like it’s the community part of community college. We’re right smack dab in the middle of Costa Mesa. We’ve been here a long time. All of the property owners are so supportive, so I feel like this is our way to give back to them,” Director of College and Community Services Julia Clevenger said.

Clevenger contends Fire’s blacksmithing class is a perfect example of community education’s value.

“She’s really good at her skill, and she’s really good at teaching.Then she has her business that she does on the side. So she’s just trying to get people passionate about what she’s passionate about,” Clevenger said.

With the rise of popularity in the “side hustle,” Clevenger said many people foster a craft and learn how to profit off it through OCC’s community education classes.

“It’s hard to make a living with one job, so people are doing things on the side, and that’s what most of our instructors do,” Clevenger said. “Even the jewelry class — folks start to sell on Etsy. Or in illustration class — you’ve always wanted to paint and here’s how you can do that and make a little bit of money on the side.”

In emphasis on enrichment for all ages, the summer community education course catalog expands extensively for the “college for kids” program.

“It’s just a very community-feeling thing, to go out there in the summer and see kids coming on a college campus for the first time,” Clevenger said. “They’re just kids going into a pool, they don’t understand yet, but as they get older and go to high school across the street, we’re more familiar to them when they hopefully come here for school and we’re part of their lives already.”

In addition to fostering a community, students in community education all seem to share the same desires — to never stop learning, to find new interests, garner new skills, and to create something with their own hands and hard work.

Liz Weston, a 61-year-old Costa Mesa resident, had never worked with metal before she signed up for Fire’s blacksmithing community education course. Now, she’s taken every single course that Fire offers.

“It’s fun because you accomplish something. You come with this glob of metal, and you leave with this pretty butterfly. You start with nothing and you end up with something really neat that you made yourself,” Weston said.

Melissa Hernandez, another student in Fire’s blacksmithing class, has been welding for 30 years. She took Fire’s class for the first time this spring, and has sharpened her metalwork skills and learned the blacksmith trade.

“I just love working with the metal. It’s like you get into the zone and make whatever you want,” Hernandez said. “The best part about (community) college and this particular class is you can just move at your own pace.”

Community education fosters people of all ages to find a niche they might’ve never thought of before and cultivate new skills.

Patrick Sullivan found himself immersed in jewelry making when his previous business “burnt down,” as he says, and found himself fulfilled in teaching his craft as an OCC community education class.

“Some of my students have gone into business for themselves making jewelry. And if they hadn’t taken the community classes, they might not have ever seen that ability in themselves to push them into that,” Sullivan said.

While it has not been often advertised to OCC students, all involved in the program encourage students to take the time to nurture a creative desire through OCC community education.

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