Back in 1996, a group of retirees got together and decided they were not finished with learning. And so the Lifelong Learning Institute was born at Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College campuses in South Mississippi.
Although it shares a name with a national program, Jenifer Freridge says the local program is not affiliated with that program.
Freridge, coordinator of College Events and Special Programs for MGCCC, said the LLI is geared toward individuals 50 years and older who still want to be active. Each of the four MGCCC campuses has a chapter of LLI, and students can go to any function on any campus. Freridge said the group has 350 members across the four locations.
For $50 a year, members participate in monthly luncheons, classes, eight day trips a year and four overnight trips. The members also get student rates at athletic and performing arts events at the campuses, use of the fitness centers, access to the Learning Resource Center, student parking access and membership in the alumni association.
They can take college courses for no tuition through the Plus 50 Encore Completion program, Freridge said.
Classes and luncheon lecture ideas all come from the members, Freridge said.
"We get together each semester and find out what the members are interested in. Many of the classes come from the luncheon lectures when members want to more than can be presented in a 30-minute lecture," she said.
The most popular classes are computer classes, smartphone basics and any type of fitness or exercise classes.
"Our members like any kind of things that keep them active," Freridge said. And they are active.
The members also like the trips. "They have like-minded people to interact with and it is safer traveling in groups. Trips to New Orleans or other areas of Louisiana are the most popular," Freridge said.
This month the group is going overnight to Helen, Ga., in the north Georgia mountains for four days. Another popular trip series is the Mississippi Backroads trips. The group went to the piney woods and hills regions of the state, and in the spring they will travel to the Delta.
Closer to home, the group traveled to the Estuarine Education Center in Jackson County for a boat ride on the Mary Walker Bayou to the Pascagoula River. They visited sites in Biloxi such as the White House Hotel and the Maritime and Seafood Industry Museum, which were restored or rebuilt following Hurricane Katrina.
"We've tried to visit Coast cities that are rebuilding since Katrina," Freridge said.
But most importantly, the LLI helps senior citizens stay active and involved.
"Between the meetings, classes and trips, they stay pretty involved," she said.