'We offer classes from A to Z;" Community Education co-coordinator loves lifelong learning

photo of ryan kinnett, community education coordinator

Ryan Kinnett is a believer in lifelong learning. That’s why, five years ago, he jumped at the opportunity to be a coordinator for the community education program at Linn-Benton Community College. 

Kinnett and the college’s other community education coordinator, Sue Stone, build the program together each term. They interview instructors, set the schedule and organize the classes. Kinnett’s focus is art, music and fitness and Stone covers gardening, languages and computers and technology.

Community and Continuing Education programs at LBCC include business resources, professional certification classes, career readiness, family resources and other forms of training for people to expand their opportunities. For Kinnett, however, the best part is helping people connect with learning simply to enrich their own lives and the lives of those around them.

 "We offer classes from A to Z and it's pretty remarkable; People who are engaged in these things often have more fulfilling lives, because there's a community of learning,” he said. 

It’s especially fun to see people get so excited about what they’re learning that they want to return as an instructor themselves. In the art classes especially, Kinnett said, an artist with a particular skill often will sign up to learn something new and then ask to come back to teach their own passion. “It’s always about diversifying what we do, too.”

Kinnett said he and Stone are careful to keep the community education program from duplicating what is offered for academic credit at LBCC.

Similarly, the program often holds its classes at spaces offered by community partners, such as school districts, the YMCA and city Parks and Recreation departments. Some of those agencies offer their own community education programs, so LBCC makes sure what it can supply is different and won’t compete.

An advantage of the community education program is that it’s open to all ages, Kinnett said. The spring term includes a learner in their 90s, and once one of the pupils was 102. 

Youths and families also are welcome, he said. “In the summer, we work with Greater Albany Public Schools and the Corvallis School District to do classes specifically for their students.”

Kinnett works full time making sure the community education program is all it can be, but he also puts part of his earnings toward making it available to others. 

LBCC invites staff members to direct a portion of their paychecks to various scholarships as an automatic deduction. Kinnett’s choice is the LBCC’s Community Education Scholarship program, to make it easier for residents to take advantage of the classes offered.

The scholarship has been in the building process for a couple of years. LBCC is finalizing the application process so it can be opened to students in the fall.

“We're excited to be able to support the growth and interests of our community members through this scholarship,” said Andrew Wynings, director of development and operations. “We hope this new opportunity will open doors for those members of our community who believe that, due to financial constraints, learning something new is out of reach.”

The community education program has been able to offer some of the state's lowest fees for noncredit classes, but still needs them to cover the costs of instructors, facility rentals and some of the part-time staffers. When those costs rise, fees need to go up, too, Kinnett said. 

At the same time, Kinnett said, many of the people who choose community education classes are on fixed incomes.

“Asking people to pay more is a financial burden. We don’t want money to be a problem for people to sign up for classes,” he said. “That’s where scholarships really help us help them.” 

A longtime volunteer who is president of the board of directors for the Mid Valley Soccer Club and received the 2021-22 Volunteer of the Year award, Kinnett is determined to do what he can to try to make the world a better place. 

“I can attribute that to how I was raised, to my family, and to what I’ve always been exposed to,” he said. “It’s pretty amazing to me that I get paid to create services for people. That brings me joy.”

If you're interested in taking one of LBCC's Community Education classes, you can visit our webpage and view our latest course offerings.