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MICL: Area seniors thrive on continued MJC based learning opportunities
A little-known program in Modesto offers scads of intellectual opportunities for senior citizens who may feel college is only for the young.

More importantly, the Modesto Institute for Continued Learning (MICL) offers friendships - some of them lifelong.

MICL ("pronounced Michael"), is gearing up for a new semester to give lots of interesting discussions, classes, social interaction and field trips for the older set in the area.

Art McRae got involved with MICL seven years ago as he wound down his teaching career at Ceres High School. He signed up for MICL classes in a desire for "a lifelong learning situation and socializing."

McRae, who was MICL president for the 2011-12 year, feels that retired persons need to keep mentally stimulated for a sense of well-being and mental health.

"It's tremendously important," said McRae. "You have to be challenged mentally in your later years. I think there's a mounting wall of evidence that it's very important to keep the mind active and do new things. MICL is very mind-stimulating and discussion promoting plus the physical education aspect."

The member-led program was organized under the auspices of the Modesto Junior College Community Education office over 20 years ago. Classes are offered at the MJC west campus on a not-for-credit basis but also have no tests, attendance requirements, homework or books to purchase.

MICL attracted 198 area senior in the last semester. McRae said that despite MICL being a quality and beneficial program, it hasn't received a lot of publicity and thus not many seniors know about it.

MICL is packaged as a fall and spring semester program. Fall semester registration is on Aug. 23 with classes starting Aug. 27. Online registration is encouraged and saves money over registering in-person.

Each semester is divided into three five-week sessions referred to as A, B and C. Registration costs $40 per semester (includes classes for all three sessions). There is a $10 fee for parking and a voluntary donation of $10 for miscellaneous classroom expenses.

Classes are held Monday through Friday (with the exception of the holidays and breaks). Monday through Thursday classes are two hours long and run from 10 a.m. to noon and 1 to 3 p.m. There is a 15-minute break during each class for refreshments and socializing.

Curriculum team members, said McRae, steer the direction of classes and are exceptional at choosing a broad range of subjects that are entertaining and appeal to most members. Class subjects run the gamut and have included "American Values: What Would Our Founding Fathers Say?" to writer workshops.

At times, members share about their travel experiences with the showing of photos during the class.

McRae enjoys the popular "Decades" class led by Bill Nichols which delves into famous personalities of the decades as presented by members who research and present talks. McRae himself taught classes on computer mogul Steve Jobs, the Marshall Plan and the Cold War.

The longest running class is the Thursday morning "What in the World?" current events class. A coordinator assigns MICL students to talk on current events, sometimes based on local newspaper clippings, such as the controversial MID water sale to the Bay Area.

Classic movies are held on Fridays with varying time frames.

Special speakers - such as scientists or musicians - often come in to speak about their fields and sometimes opportunities.

A popular feature are the field trips offered once per five-week session. Members have visited the Delta wetlands, Sierra Repertory Theatre plays in Sonora, the DeYoung Museum, and new Hall of Science in San Francisco, the California State Railroad Museum and Crocker Art Gallery in Sacramento and the Forestiere Underground Gardens in Fresno.

Friendship made at MICL often lead to social times outside the campus. Many students get together on their own to celebrate birthdays or just enjoy a friendly luncheon. Members also bring to class home-grown produce from backyard fruit trees and gardens.

Classrooms have a more folksy feel and accommodations for seniors include large print postings, wiring for the hearing-impaired, and drop-down screens allow for better vision of presentations.

To address physical needs, MICL also offers "Young at Heart" exercise program, as well as some Tai Chi prior to class twice a week.

For more on the program, visit or call 575-6063 to receive the MICL newsletter. To get to the MICL building from Highway 99, travel southwest on the Briggsmore overpass, turn west onto Blue Gum Avenue, turn right on Second Street, turn right on E Street until you see an older wooden buildings (Building 6000).