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College for Older Adults

College for Older Adults - SPRING 2024 registration open now

session dates: Apr 15 to May 24

If you have questions about COA email or call Melanie Gilbert at 276-694-7181 ext 22. 

College for Older Adults is a semi-annual program lasting six weeks each spring and fall. We strive to offer cultural, intellectual, social, and fitness opportunities for adults ages 50 and older. If you are a lifelong learner, curious about the world around us, interested in trying new things or meeting new people or enjoy planning outings and activities, then COA is perfect for you!

Cooking Up Culture – 6 week series 
Mondays – 10am – 1:30pm 
Instructor: Rod Perrino 
Minimum: 6 
Maximum: 12 
Supply Fee: $20 
Join us as we travel across 3 continents and learn a bit about the foods of different countries in "Cooking Up Culture".  Each week we'll enjoy cooking foods of a different cuisine, and some classes will even have a guest speaker to talk a bit about the culture, as we enjoy the foods. We'll learn about the foods of Thailand, India, Greece, Spain, Northern Italy and some of the countries of West Africa. All are welcome, no matter how much cooking experience you have; everyone will have fun and enjoy great food. Chef Rod was an instructor at several schools and venues in New York City, including Kingsborough Community College, and the Culinary Academy of Manhattan. He has over 20 years cooking experience. 
Painting on Burlap Bags – 2 week series 
Monday, April 15 & April 22 – 1:30pm – 4:00pm 
Instructor: Andrea Morrison 
Maximum: 8 
Supply Fee: $5 
Attendees will paint on burlap bags of various sizes with fabric paint and stencils. Bring stencils, if you can. Andrea likes creating art with many different mediums and has led several workshops for COA. 
Spring Button Bouquet 
Monday, April 29 – 3:30pm – 5:00pm 
Instructor: Terri Alt 
Maximum: 8 
Supply Fee: $10 
Attendees will create a spring flower bouquet from colorful buttons. Using small jars and salt shakers, participants will leave with a burst of spring color to brighten their homes. Terri is the Family and Consumer Science Extension agent for the Patrick County Extension Office...and she’s crafty! 
Yoga – 4 week series  
Monday, April 29, May 6, May 13, May 20 – 2:00pm – 3:00pm  
Instructor: Cynthia Cowley 
Minimum: 4 
Maximum: 12 
We will focus on balance, bone strength, flexibility, and core. Each participant will need a yoga mat, blocks, a strap, and two blankets or large beach towels. Some yoga props will be provided in limited quantities. Cynthia has been practicing yoga for ten years and earned her 200 Hour Certified Yoga Instructor Certificate in April of 2021. She currently teaches Gentle Yoga at Just Breathe Yoga and Bodyworks in Martinsville, VA. 
Living with Black Bears 
Monday, May 20 – 3:30pm – 4:30pm 
Instructor: Regina Flora 
Black bears can be a nuisance! With the increased population and sightings, we need to learn about their habits and preventive measures. This class is presented in cooperation with VA Dept of Wildlife Resources. Regina Flora is a VA Master Naturalist from the Southwestern Piedmont chapter. As education outreach chair, she schedules exhibits and class sessions within Patrick, Henry, and Pittsylvania counties. She is employed by Dan River Basin Association as an environmental educator. In addition, she is a Project Learning Tree facilitator. 
Sustainable Wellness – 6 week series 
Tuesdays from 10am – 11:30am 
Instructor: Elizabeth Stancescu (Dragon’s Beard Farm) 
Minimum: 4 
This is a six-week series course about building sustainable lifestyle habits to reach your health and wellness goals, led by Elizabeth Stancescu, ACE Certified Personal Trainer and Precision Nutrition Nutritional Habit Coach with over 10 years of experience coaching athletes of all ages and abilities. Classes will include discussion of how to set goals that will make success easy and how to overcome common hurdles. We will cover healthy habits that can aid many common ailments - including, but not limited to, relieving chronic pain, uplifting depression, and increasing energy - and spend some time each week learning and practicing movements that will help support those healthy habits and how to adjust each movement to different fitness levels. All movements discussed will be able to be performed with zero or minimal equipment requirements - they can be done anywhere, anytime, and by anyone. *This advice is not intended to diagnose or treat any condition. Please discuss any concerns with your primary care provider before beginning any new fitness or diet protocols.* Elizabeth has been an ACE Certified Personal Trainer since 2015, and a Precision Nutrition Level 1 Nutrition Habit Coach since 2016. She also has been a Crossfit Level 2 Trainer since 2020 and coached group fitness through Crossfit as a Level 1 Trainer since 2015. She has also been a Certified Pre- and Post-Natal Coach through Girls Gone Strong since 2019. She coached group and individual fitness at several gyms, including Crossfit, Delta Life Fitness, F45, and YMCA locations, and coached private individual training sessions in private homes. Prior to officially becoming a certified personal trainer, she led group fitness sessions and nutrition challenges with friends and family. Her focus as a trainer is to break the trance of diet and exhaustion and help as many people as possible learn how to listen to the messages their bodies are sending them so that they can achieve their highest level of wellness and thoroughly enjoy life. 
The Six Pillars of Brain Health 
Tuesday, April 23 from11:45am – 12:45pm 
Instructor: Dr. Leslie Pendleton 
Maximum: 25 
It's never too late to take charge of your brain health! In this interactive session, you will learn about the six pillars of a brain-healthy lifestyle, share your brain-boosting activities, and be inspired by others. This session is an informative overview for anyone interested in improving their brain health. Actionable steps and resources will be provided. A Virginia Tech alum and retiree, Dr. Pendleton is 3-year Past President of AARP Blacksburg Chapter #2613. She is an AARP Virginia Community Ambassador, team leader for a Pathways to Successful Aging network in the New River Valley, and a member of the Aging in Community (AiC) Leadership Team, also in the New River Valley. In her spare time, she enjoys pet therapy with her golden retriever at a local children’s museum, attending live music events, engaging in textile arts, and grand-parenting her 6-month old granddaughter and several grand dogs. 
The Parasympathetic Nervous System and YOU 
Four Week Series – Tuesdays April 30, May 7, May 14, May 21 
11:45 – 12:45 
Instructor: Kate Bye 
We have all heard about the fight-or-flight response that our Sympathetic Nervous System manages, but what about the other side of the coin? Rest-and-Digest is the nickname of the Parasympathetic Nervous System and it is where all of your superpowers are! When the Sympathetic and Parasympathetic are functioning properly, you have a regulated nervous system and that is the key to health! Come explore strategies to activate and strengthen your parasympathetic nervous system in this 4-week workshop! Kate is a National Board-Certified Health & Wellness Coach who has been teaching Psychology for 17 years and empowering people with the information they can use to design the lives they want to be living! 
Ancient Greece and Rome: the View from 30,000 Feet – A 6 weeks series 
Tuesdays 1:00pm – 2:00pm 
Instructor: Tim Smith 
Minimum: 6 
A rapid overview of the ancient civilizations of Greece and Rome. The highly-illustrated lectures will range from Bronze Age Greece in the second millennium BC to the final fall of Rome. Topics will include history, archaeology, literature and the arts, philosophy and religion, daily life, and much more. Be prepared to learn some new things about the ancient world! Please be advised that a number of images of art objects include full nudity, both male and female. 
 Lecture titles  
1. From Bronze to Dark to Golden  
2. The “Golden Age” of Greece  
3. Alexander and the World He Created  
4. The Rise and Fall of the Roman Republic  
5. The Pax Romana  
6. The Long, Bumpy Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire 
Tim has a Ph.D. in Classics from the University of Pennsylvania. He taught Classics for three years back in the 1970s at UNC-G. For a variety of reasons he decided to switch careers and went to library school at Chapel Hill, after which he spent the rest of his working life in academic libraries. For most of those years he taught Latin “on the side” and have never lost his interest in the ancient world. 
The Road to Civil Rights – A 5 week series on Tuesdays 
Tuesday, April 16 from 2:30 – 5:00 – Dr. Will Harris, Principal Scholar from the International Civil Rights Center & Museum in Greensboro, NC will be here to give us an introduction to the Civil Rights Movement. 
Tuesday, April 30 from 3:00 – 5:00 – Cainan Townsend will share the Moton High School civil rights story with us via zoom. 
Tuesday, May 7 from 2:30pm – 5:00 - Faye Holland will share the Martinsville Seven story. 
Tuesday, May 14 from 2:30 – 4:30 – Brian Suttell, Asst Professor of History from Ferrum College will share with us information on Local and National Civil Rights events.  
Tuesday, May 21 from 2:30 – 4:30 - Karice Luck Brimmer, an Education & Community Initiatives program associate for Virginia Humanities will share with us the legacy of the Civil Rights Movement in Danville. 
Minimum: 6 
This series examines the history and legacy of the African American struggle for civil rights in twentieth-century America. It provides students with a broad overview of the civil rights movement -- the key issues, significant people and organizations, and pivotal events -- as well as a deeper understanding of its scope, influence, legacy, and lessons for today.   
Caregiving 101: Creating a Plan 
Tuesday, April 23 from 2:15 – 3:15 
Instructor: Dr. Leslie Pendleton 
Maximum: 25 
No matter where you are in the journey of family caregiving - just beginning to anticipate a need, helping to coordinate a big move, or taking care of a family member full-time - having a good framework to help guide both you and your loved one will make the process easier. During this session, the presenter will share a framework to help you make plans to care for friends, family members, or loved ones. You will have the opportunity to connect with other family caregivers, exchange tips and advice, and learn about resources available to you and your loved ones. A Virginia Tech alum and retiree, Dr. Pendleton is 3-year Past President of AARP Blacksburg Chapter #2613. She is an AARP Virginia Community Ambassador, team leader for a Pathways to Successful Aging network in the New River Valley, and a member of the Aging in Community (AiC) Leadership Team, also in the New River Valley. In her spare time, she enjoys pet therapy with her golden retriever at a local children’s museum, attending live music events, engaging in textile arts, and grand-parenting her 6-month old granddaughter and several grand dogs. 
Hiking with Derek 
April 17 – May 22 (6 weeks series) 
Instructor: Derek Layman 
Fee: $30 for just hikes, $5 for guests on hikes 
Instructor: Derek Layman 
(Wednesdays Starting April 17, 2024) 
 Six easy to moderate hikes of 2-6 miles each located within 55 miles of Stuart. Participants should carefully consider the following: sturdy/comfortable shoes, weather appropriate clothing, hiking stick, hiking backpack, bug spray, plenty of liquid for hydration (preferably water or Gatorade), and snacks as desired. Leashed pets are welcome at most hike locations. Join us as we explore the natural beauty of Southwest VA and Northwest NC!
The following trails are on the agenda but are subject to change: 
Knight Brown Nature Preserve (Huntsville Township, NC) – Enjoy this 2.8-mile loop trail near Pine Hall, North Carolina. Generally considered an easy route, it takes an average of 1 h 12 min to complete. This trail is great for hiking and running, and it's unlikely you'll encounter many other people while exploring. The best times to visit this trail are January through June. Dogs are welcome but must be on a leash. 
Fisher Peak Loop Trail (Old Town District, VA) – Experience this 2.9-mile loop trail near Galax, Virginia. Generally considered a moderately challenging route, it takes an average of 1 h 23 min to complete. This trail is great for hiking and walking, and it's unlikely you'll encounter many other people while exploring. The trail is open year-round and is beautiful to visit anytime. Dogs are welcome but must be on a leash. 
Shot Tower to Foster Falls Trail (Lead Mines District, VA) – Head out on this 3.1-mile out-and-back trail near Austinville, Virginia. Generally considered an easy route, it takes an average of 1 h 3 min to complete. This is a popular trail for hiking, horseback riding, and road biking, but you can still enjoy some solitude during quieter times of day. The best times to visit this trail are April through October. Dogs are welcome but must be on a leash. 
Grassy Hill Nature Preserve Upper Loop (Rocky Mount, VA) – Explore this 4.5-mile out-and-back trail (with an upper loop) near Rocky Mount, Virginia. Generally considered a moderately challenging route, it takes an average of 2 h 19 min to complete. This is a popular trail for hiking and walking, but you can still enjoy some solitude during quieter times of day. The best times to visit this trail are July through November. Dogs are welcome but must be on a leash.
Little Mountain Falls Trail (Fairystone Park) – Get to know this 4.3-mile loop trail near Stuart, Virginia. Generally considered a moderately challenging route, it takes an average of 1 h 57 min to complete. This is a popular trail for hiking, horseback riding, and mountain biking, but you can still enjoy some solitude during quieter times of day. The best times to visit this trail are March through October. Dogs are welcome but must be on a leash. 
Laurel Ridge Trail (Salthouse Branch Park, Philpott) – Get to know this 5.2-mile out-and-back trail (we may not hike the entire trail) near Henry, Virginia. Generally considered a moderately challenging route, it takes an average of 2 h 7 min to complete. This is a popular trail for birding, camping, and fishing, but you can still enjoy some solitude during quieter times of day. The best times to visit this trail are April through October. Dogs are welcome but must be on a leash. 
Click the link for each hike for more information and directions. If you have any questions or concerns, Derek can be reached at or (540) 420-6836. 
Line Dancing 
Every Thursday from 9:30 - 10:30 
Instructor: Don Richardson 
Summary: Line Dancing is a fun way to elevate your heart rate, burn calories, strengthen back and core muscles and enjoy some great music, too! Don joins us from Walnut Cove to lead this great class. Don taught school for 30 years and private tutored for 5 years. He has been line dancing since 2010 and is part owner of Palmetto theater restoration project. He loves to collect vintage jukeboxes and record players from the 50s and 60s. 
Research from the Center for Rural Education 
Thursday, Apri 18 from 11:00 – 1:00 
Instructors: Annie Shaba, Josh Thompson, Christian Heasley 
Virginia Tech doctoral students Annie Shaba, Josh Thompson, and Christian Heasley will present their areas of research in rural education.
Clay Sunflower Bowls 
Thursday, April 18 from 1:30 – 4:30 
Instructor: Rebecca Flippen  
Minimum: 4 
Maximum: 12 
Supply Fee: $20 
Students will cut petal forms from slab rolled clay to form a sunflower, using paper bowls to form the shape, then paint with stroke & coat glazes. Rebecca is retired from local county government and has several years experience in hand built ceramics.
This is NOT a SCAM! - Original Theatre Performance 
Thursday, April 18 
6:00pm – 8:00pm at the Star Theatre   
Instructor: Susanna Rinehart 
Supply Fee: $5 if you register through COA - $10 at the door if you haven’t registered through COA 
With a CyberArts grant from Commonwealth Cyber Initiative, Virginia Tech School of Performing Arts Theatre faculty Susanna Rinehart and her cast and crew will entertain you with an hour-long theatrical performance created from real-life interviews of your fellow Virginians about their experiences of being targeted by scammers. Through comic, dramatic, and theatrical scenarios, the performance builds community and gives us all a chance to share our stories and work to end the devastating consequences of this growing concern. Susanna Rinehart is a lifelong theatre artist and educator, with three decades of experience as a professional actress and as a university professor training and directing university theatre students. In addition to performing and directing in a wide range of plays and musicals, she also has a career-long interest in the use of this kind of documentary theatre to bring the typically unheard voices of everyday people to the stage in order to engage and build communities and dialogue around what all of us experience but don't always get to talk about in human terms! 
A Story Has Its Own Wisdom 
Thursday, April 25 from 11:00am – 12:30pm 
Instructor: Darnell Arnoult 
Reading and discussion regarding how a novel takes shape over time and the writing process and how characters sometimes push back when they know a better story than the author starts with. Darnell Arnoult was born and raised in Henry County, Virginia. She left Virginia at 19 years old. She's since lived in North Carolina, Tennessee, and a short stint in South Carolina. She is author of the novel Sufficient Grace (Simon & Schuster Inc., 2006), poetry collections What Travels With Us (LSU Press, 2005), Galaxie Wagon (LSU Press, 2016), and Incantations: Poems (Madville Publishing, 2024). Her shorter works have appeared in a variety of journals and anthologies. She holds the BA from UNC-CH, MA from NCSU, and MFA from University of Memphis. She offers readings, lectures, and a constellation of workshops and services for writers and writing communities and is a regular faculty member of Table Rock Writers Workshop and John C. Campbell Folk School. She is the recipient of the SIBA Poetry Book of the Year Prize, Weatherford Award, Thomas and Lillie D. Chaffin Award, and Hobson Award in Arts and Letters. She lives with her family in Mebane, NC. For more about Darnell, visit
Coyote: The Newcomer 
April 25 from 1:00pm – 2:00pm 
Instructor: Danny Martin 
This marvelous predator is a relatively new species in our area. Coyote: The Newcomer tells the story of the coyote's amazing journey across thousands of miles to eventually establish itself in the Eastern United States, including Patrick County. Learn the habits and characteristics of the coyote and how it differs from its Western cousin. Discover why Native American legend believes the coyote will be the last living creature on Earth!!!!! Danny is a graduate of Virginia Tech with a B.S Degree in Mechanical Engineering, Masters Degree in Education from Radford University. He has taught school in Patrick County for 7 years, retired from Dupont, worked as a Park Ranger with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, worked as an Investigator with the Patrick County Sheriff's Office, and is currently working as a Park Ranger at Fairy Stone State Park. 
Mountain Moonshining 
May 2 from 11:00am – 12:00pm 
Instructor: Danny Martin 
From the early Scotch-Irish settlers to strong-willed mountain dwellers of the 1800s and 1900s to modern times, the makers of moonshine have engaged in a continuing battle with various government agencies. Mountain Moonshine follows the evolution of the moonshine tradition and its impact on our local history and culture. Examine the roots of moonshining, take a look at a replica moonshine still, and hear stories about local moonshining incidents. 
Making Wine Jelly 
May 2 from 1:00pm –4:00pm 
Instructor: Rebecca Flippen 
Minimum: 6 
Maximum: 12 
Supply Fee: $5.00 
Participants will take a hands on approach in learning the process for making wine jelly, including how to select suitable wines to use. For this class, Stanburn wines will be featured. Each participant will have a finished product of both a white and red wine jelly to take home. 
Floral Design 
May 9 
12:30pm – 2:30pm 
Instructor: Tracey Haley 
Supply Fee: $15
This class is designed to teach beginner basic floral arrangement. Everyone that registers will have a small vase of flowers to take home. Tracey has been a floral designer for 40 years. She has worked for Flowers by Linda, Simply the Best, and Unique Styles and Designs. She has experience with fresh and artificial designs, purchasing and customer service. 
American Espionage: The Culper Spy Ring in the American Revolution 
May 16 
2:00pm – 4:00pm 
Instructor: Kaylen Griles 
Join this lecture session on the origins of the Culper Spy Ring, who was involved, what they did, and what technologies they used to transmit reconnaissance and intelligence information to Commander-in-Chief George Washington from 1778 until 1781.
Kaylen is a twenty-one-year-old History graduate student at Virginia Tech with plans to graduate in May of 2025 with her master's in history and a public history certificate. She is from Halifax County, Virginia, a first-generation college student, and the first in her immediate family to attend a Graduate program. She attended Christopher Newport University from 2020-2023, graduating a year early. While there, she earned her bachelor's degree in history with minors in political science and leadership studies. Before entering into the field of History, she planned on attending a graduate program in education with the goal of working with grades 6-12. During her senior year at CNU while researching the Culper Ring, she discovered that she had a true passion for researching and writing history. In the summer of 2022, she interned under Barbara Bass at the Halifax County Historical Society selecting, organizing, and archiving materials for an upcoming publication about the Bicentennial celebration of Halifax County in the 1980s. After she completes her education at Virginia Tech, she plans to take some time off to work either in education or in a public history setting to develop her skills more before going back to school and earning her PhD. 
Come Paint With Me 
May 23 
11:00am – 1:00pm 
Instructor: Jim McIntosh 
Minimum: 6 
Maximum: 16 
We will paint together a local country bright vibrant colors. Jim’s first watercolor painting classes were at the Reynolds Homestead in the 70's and have continued to recent years. It has always been an inspiring hobby. He has participated in many local and regional art shows and continues to paint nearly every day. His style is "semi-abstract, impressionistic" paintings in bright, clean, colors.  
Supplies: Students need to bring, if available, watercolor paint, brushes, pallet, pencil, paper towels, clips or masking tape. Something to paint on the size of the paper (9"X12") Some of these are available at Walmart, and instructor will have some of these that you can use. 
Foraging for Wild Edibles 
May 23 
2:00pm – 4pm 
Instructor: Bruce Ingram 
Participants will watch a slide presentation on wild edibles, then we will go on a field trip on the grounds of the Reynolds Homestead. Bruce is a high school English and Creative Writing Teacher at Lord Botetourt High School, author of 11 books, including Living the Locavore Lifestyle, and have sold some 2,800 articles to magazines and websites.

Ride on our 14 passenger bus or meet us at the destination! For bus riders there is a $15 transportation fee per trip; limited space is available. We’ll stop for lunch on each trip and we’ll each take care of our own tab. Additional admission or entertainment fees may apply and will be listed by each destination.

4/19 International Civil Rights Museum guided tour
$20 per person for a signature staff-guided tour  
$15 transportation fee  
Total - $35 payable with registration 
The International Civil Rights Center & Museum (ICRCM) is located in Greensboro, North Carolina. Its building formerly housed the Woolworth's, the site of a nonviolent protest in the civil rights movement.   
Bring money for lunch at Sarah’s Kabob Shop.
4/26 Taubman Museum of Art guided tour
$8 per person for guided tour 
$15 transportation fee  
Total - $23 payable with registration 
The Taubman Museum of Art is part of the lively metro mountain mix of arts, culture and outdoor fun in the heart of downtown Roanoke, Virginia. Its collection includes more than 2,000 works, including sculptures, photographs, paintings, figures, drawings, artifacts, and objects.
The Rimer Cardillo exhibition will be on display. The Taubman museum website describes the art: [his] vision allows no separation between the ecological and the social as it works to make us aware that whole worlds have already collapsed and disappeared.
Bring money for lunch at Martin‘s Downtown Roanoke.
5/3 Virginia Museum of Natural History - behind the scenes tour
Admission is free 
$15 transportation fee  
Total: $15 payable with registration 
As the state museum of natural history, Martinsville‘s Virginia Museum of Natural History has award-winning exhibits, ground-breaking scientific research and collections, and transformational educational programs for all ages. With its statewide outreach education and distance learning programs, online resources, and traveling exhibits and displays, the Virginia Museum of Natural History is truly a Museum Without Walls.
Bring money for lunch at Chick-fil-A. 
5/10 SeaQuest science labs and guided tour
$16 Labs & Guided Tour 
$15 Transportation Fee  
Total: $31 payable with registration 
We bring the majestic wonders of our planet, ranging from rainforests and deserts to exotic marine life. These exhibits create an exciting quest for visitors as they make their way through an Icelandic Fishing Village, the Great Wall of China, to the Amazon River and beyond. Guests are encouraged to connect with animals and learn about their ecosystems through various hands-on activities which include hand-feeding sharks, stingrays, birds, and tropical animals. Anyone in search of a more daring experience can enjoy walk-in aviaries, coming face-to-face with crocodilians by feeding the caiman, or snorkeling in the premier 36,000-gallon exhibit filled with reef sharks, stingrays, and hundreds of tropical fish. Located in Lynchburg, VA. 

Bring money for lunch at Papa Gallos.

5/17 Blue Ridge Music Center
Admission is free 
$15 transportation fee  
Total: $15 payable with registration 
The Blue Ridge Music Center celebrates the music and musicians of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Each spring, summer, and fall, we welcome thousands of visitors to enjoy some of the region’s finest traditional music, including bluegrass, old-time, folk, Americana, country blues, and gospel. Guests are invited to delight in performances, exhibits, jams, and additional experiences. 
Located near Galax, Virginia, at milepost 213 on the Blue Ridge Parkway, the Visitor Center and Museum are open May through October. Admission to the Visitor Center and Museum is free. The grounds are home to an outdoor amphitheater and an indoor interpretive center. The indoor center features a theater, gift shop, and museum that highlights the American musical culture still thriving in the region. Guests are welcome to dance to and learn about the music we are proud to support. 
Bring your own bag lunch to eat on the lawn. 
5/24 National D-Day Memorial guided tour
$10 tour
$15 Transportation Fee  
Total: $25 payable with registration 
The National D-Day Memorial is a war memorial located in Bedford, Virginia. It serves as the national memorial for American D-Day veterans. However, its scope is international in that it states, "In Tribute to the valor, fidelity and sacrifice of Allied Forces on D-Day, June 6, 1944" and commends all Allied Armed Forces during the D-Day invasion of Normandy, France on June 6, 1944, during World War II. 
Bring money for lunch at the Clam Diggers Seafood.