July-August 2006






Learning for Life

Follow your passion: Change the world for the better


A forty something woman from the marketing world practices to become a celebrant, a performer of innovative, personalized ceremonies marking life's important moments. People concerned about vanishing languages study them online. In upstate New York, people with disabilities learn how to lead the kind of life that most of us take for granted. Other learners hone their leadership skills or study badly needed alternative energy applications. Welcome to the wide world of lifelong learning-a.k.a. continuing education-as it looks in 2006. What these and other nontraditional kinds of tutelage have in common is a unique approach to learning, aimed at helping people start a new career, improve a current one, or simply enlarge their lives. More people are indulging passions for lifelong learning than ever before-and the channels through which they're doing it have never been more varied.  


Thanks to the Internet, geography hardly matters anymore. "There's a whole new online market for learning that will grow exponentially for the next several years, Robinson notes. "It already grew 434 percent from 2004 to 2005. Almost all universities now offer online learning, and more than 40 schools offer [online] master's degree programs. The Internet is a great leveler and tool for empowerment. With life spans increasing, more people will want to be engaged in personal fulfillment of some kind, especially if they're not working or are unable to work and are physically confined."


At the Celebrant USA Foundation and Institute in Montclair, New Jersey, students learn how to create and lead ceremonies that run the gamut from innovative weddings and funerals to rites that mark adoptions, divorces, and the loss of jobs.

Local students attend classes at the Montclair headquarters, a handsome Victorian house, while others study online. Modeled after programs that started in Australia, Celebrant USA gas grown steadily from 7 graduates in 2001 (mostly from New Jersey) to 50 from 15 states and Canada in 2005. Celebrants are playing Key roles in their communities, says Charlotte Eulette, national director and a celebrant herself. "We're giving a lot of professionals new, meaningful careers that touch other people's lives in a much more personalized way than many traditional ceremonies can."

At Toronto's Humber College, Surya Vyas will soon add CPA to his name. Born in India, Vyas found Humber's business classes an ideal way to add yet another skill set to a resume that includes an MBA in finance and a degree in chemistry. Humber's business offerings go well beyond the familiar into specialized areas like golf management and health-sector marketing. "For some reason, there's been a steady increase in the number of people interested in learning how to operate a spa business:' adds spokesperson Belinda Cunha. "It has a lot to do with more people discovering the health and stress management benefits of going to a spa."


A company called Rosetta Stone stands ready to teach you Mohawk in high-tech style-via Mohawk Immersion Software, released this spring as part of its Endangered Language series. The company uses a trademarked online learning method called Dynamic Immersion to teach more than 30 languages (not all of them endangered) to millions of learners in more than 150 countries.

And at the Center for Discovery in upstate New York, youngsters and adults who have mild to severe cognitive delays, physical disabilities, and significant language and social impairments are learning life skills that help them thrive. "We're a successful alternative for individuals who might have been housed in traditional asylums or 'state schools' like Willowbrook back in the '70s-places where they often became more disabled because of their institutionalization, explains Richard Humleker, chief of development. Humleker exudes personal and professional satisfaction as he tells the center's success stories and describes pro-grams and facilities like Thanksgiving Farm, which produces certified organic produce. "Parents of a lot of the kids we work with were told that their children were incapable of learning," he says. "We've proven them wrong: Pall Delevitt, executive director of Global Medicine Education Foundation (GMEF), under-stands the importance of merging conventional medicine with holistic practices. An integrated medicine pioneer, Delevitt started one of the first integrated medicine programs, at the University of Virginia School of Medicine in 1991.


“The Center for Discovery offers individuals with significant disabilities, and their families, innovative educational, clinical, social, and living experiences designed to enrich their lives through personal accomplishment and increased independence”.


Today, she works with a team of 30 from various healing modalities to help students "establish a way of healing that comes from the heart and soul of the individual to create a healing life for themselves and others." GMEF offers students the opportunity to learn alongside other healers with diverse backgrounds.