At 79-years-old, the Court House resident is afflicted with anemia, a bad heart, and damaged hearing from the Korean War. Even though he swims a quarter mile every morning, he is still worried about “keeping up.”
“I never completed the eight grade,” said Neill.
Neill said that the image of him sitting in a classroom with a bottle of nitro spray hanging around his neck with “kids” less than half his age that might leave him in the academic dust made him uneasy.
Neill told the Herald on Dec. 22 that, due to continued encouragement from his family, classmates, and his professor, he is proud to have completed his first semester at the local branch of Atlantic Cape Community College through the Senior Adult Gaining Education Stimulation program (SAGES).
This learning opportunity for seniors allows county residents, age 60 and older, to take credit courses when space becomes available.
“I felt better as soon as I walked through the doors,” Neil said. “The new college really is a state of the art piece of work.”
He remembered that quite a few other seniors were present on the designated enrollment date but could not recall an exact total.
According to unofficial enrollment figures, only 15 senior citizens took advantage of the SAGES program. Popular classes include literature, logic and introduction to computers.
Neill said that the rest of his fears were put to rest with the help of Lisa Apel-Gendron, director of academic and student services.
“Lisa was gracious and helpful throughout the entire registration process, including the placement test,” he said.
Introduction to literature appealed to Neill, because of his desire to improve his writing. He said if his skills continue to sharpen, he would like to finally write about his great grandmother Emma Hankins, who was one of the first people to reside in North Wildwood, or his great grandfather who fought in the union army during the Civil War.
Neill credited his professor, Ethel “Effie” Russell, for her enthusiastic approach to the subject.
“It was a great pleasure to be in her class,” commented Neil. “I had no problem hearing thanks to her clear diction and the acoustics in the new place.”
He said that an added bonus to taking the course was working side by side with young people who really impressed him.
“They were very eager to learn and always helpful to me,” Neil said.
Neill admitted that in the past, he used to skip over poetry. but said that Russell’s approach to the subject made him stop and look closely. Analyzing a poem became one of the most interesting things he learned during the semester, he said. Armed with a better understanding of the inner workings of poetry, Neill said that he was able to write his final paper on Wilfred Owen’s “Dulce et Decorum Est” with confidence.
Grades are still being recorded at the college, but Neill already knows that he has exceeded his personal expectations. He said that he is looking forward to taking another course in the spring, possibly creative writing.
ACCC’s registration for the SAGES program will be held on Friday, Jan. 13, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Those who are interested must appear in person and must bring two forms of identification, plus their Social Security cards.
Although SAGES students pay no tuition for the college credit classes, there is a one-time fee of $35 for first-time applicants, a general fee of $9 per credit, and $2.50 for insurance.
For additional information, call 463-3960.
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