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Community Fusion
by Garrett Valenzuela
Aug 24, 2012 | 2329 views | 0 0 comments | 5 5 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Tribune photo/G. Valenzuela 
Artist and teacher Rachel Salvagione shows off the commemorative piece of a glass fusion project Thursday in Sparks she completed for a children’s cancer hospital in Brazil.
Tribune photo/G. Valenzuela Artist and teacher Rachel Salvagione shows off the commemorative piece of a glass fusion project Thursday in Sparks she completed for a children’s cancer hospital in Brazil.
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Tribune/Garrett Valenzuela
Rachel Salvagione, artist and teacher at Kadam Studio of Glass in Sparks, sifts through different colored glass Thursday while talking about her involvement in Washoe County School District’s Community Education program. The program is possible because of a partnership WCSD has with Truckee Meadows Community College.
Tribune/Garrett Valenzuela Rachel Salvagione, artist and teacher at Kadam Studio of Glass in Sparks, sifts through different colored glass Thursday while talking about her involvement in Washoe County School District’s Community Education program. The program is possible because of a partnership WCSD has with Truckee Meadows Community College.
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SPARKS — The phrase “keeping the student in mind” inked just below the name of Rachel Salvagione’s art studio is fitting not only to her studio, but the community she educates.

Salvagione has been teaching for Washoe County School District’s Community Education Program, which is designed to provide a variety of unique classes, for nine years. Salvagione’s Kadam Studio of Glass is home to two of the program’s unique classes: Introduction to Glass Fusion and Introduction to Stained Glass.

“We began with one class housed at Dilworth Middle School nine years ago and eventually it got up to 10 classes in one semester,” Salvagione said. “When Dilworth said they needed the space for teaching we had the option to discontinue the class or go out on our own. Now, the students come out here for class.”

Her studio is filled with glossy, colorful finished work by amateurs and experienced glass workers, with items ranging from coasters to spoon rests to framed stained-glass roses. Students who enter a class through Community Education have the opportunity to leave with three personalized pieces by the end of a two-part class taken over five hours.

“When they come into the first intro class, they are not expecting much. They are looking for something fun to do,” she said. “They get to go home with a finished project. They finish three coasters in the intro classes and they can be taken home to enjoy. Ninety five percent of the people continue on after the intro class because they get to use their own hands to make something unique to them.”

Glass fusion is just one of more than 300 courses offered by Community Education, which began thanks to a partnership between WCSD and Truckee Meadows Community College. Community Education Program Coordinator Debbie Melahn said the program has been around for about 30 years and because of the collaboration with TMCC it will continue to grow its class offerings each year.

“Classes can be done after the school day, in the evening, on weekends and are offered for babies all the way up to senior citizens,” Melahn said. “We now have more locations, classes, instructors, access to facilities and we are able to serve the entire community.”

Melahn witnessed the transition first hand, from competing against TMCC’s similar classes to collaborating with them, to better serve the community. She said the business model the program needed to function properly was “made from scratch” after the two entities partnered.

Kathy Berry, marketing manager for TMCC, said president Maria Sheehan asked the teams to focus on initiatives and programs that better serve the community who is not attending higher education. TMCC’s Workforce Development program has been in place for more than 30 years, and now threads its focus into Community Education.

“It really benefits students’ quality of life. You take our classes to learn something you’ve been interested in, connect to people who are also interested and become a part of the community by meeting people doing things they like to do,” Berry said.

Berry said variety is key in engaging the community to participate in their most unique classes, which often fill up first because they are unlike traditional school classes.

“We have a Royal Father-Daughter Ball that sells out every year. Fathers love taking their daughters out and it is one of those nights everyone talks about,” Berry said. “It’s fascinating the people who contact us and say they have a subject for us. What one person rolls their eyes at, another says ‘oh wow, great!’”

On the professional side of Community Education, the program offers classes for essential skills needed to land a new job or promotion. Classes in fields of communication, writing, languages, business investment, fitness, culinary arts, culture and religion open possibilities for the community to immerse themselves in an activity.

“We are always evolving and the community is always looking for something different, which has us looking to serve the community while being efficient,” Berry said. “Many of these classes, and they way they operate, change peoples perspective on things and help change lives.”

Melahn said teachers employed at WCSD often teach Community Education classes in their spare time for the chance to provide passionate teaching and interaction on a subject of interest beyond Washoe County curriculum. Berry said being able to offer classes without using any school district or TMCC funds allows them to continue enriching the community without hurting either entity.

“These classes are solely funded by the people who register for them. No school money goes to this, which is the reason for the advance sign up because without enough people we can’t have it pay for itself,” Berry said. “Everyday, year round there is always something happening. Classes are continually starting at different locations all the time, so just because you missed an opening of one class doesn’t mean you have to wait until next year. There will probably be another one in a week or two.”

To find out more about Community Education or to register for a class, visit www.washoecommunityed.org.
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