By BECKY MALEWITZ
You are never too old to take a class at Garden City Community College.
Just ask 95-year-old Carl Bonebrake, who calls himself the oldest student on campus.
Since 1988, Bonebreak and his daughter, Karen Rupp, have taken part in a woodworking class offered through the Business and Community Education Department at the college.
"It keeps us out of trouble," Bonebreak said as he worked recently on one of what will be a total of 30 handmade wooden crosses he plans on giving to family and friends.
Rupp, in addition to taking woodworking with her father on Tuesday nights, also attends upholstery class with her mother on Thursdays.
"Life is busy, and this is at least three hours a week I spend with them," she said over the sound of a table saw whirring in the background and sawdust filling the air.
Woodworking and upholstery are just two enrichment classes being offered through the college this semester.
Jean Warta, GCCC Business and Community Education director, said she constantly is looking for new classes and programs to attract people of all ages so they can be lifelong learners.
"Lifelong learners are just happier because they just have something to learn and conquer and then move on to the next thing, and then learn and conquer that," Warta said. "They just keep reaching these goals and making their lives better each day, and if you improve your personal life, that improves your work life. If you don't keep learning, your brain isn't being active and getting used, and it will go to waste."
Woodworking instructor Tim Routon says he enjoys coming in each week and helping his students work through challenges, and even challenging himself at times.
"Sometimes teaching is a win-win situation. You are teaching a lot, and every now and then you have a challenge where they hit you with something you don't quite get, and it challenges the teacher to find the solution. So I have to learn as I am teaching sometimes," he said. "I don't care how old you get, life is continually a learning process."
Routon, who learned woodworking from his father, said that each semester he looks forward to passing on that knowledge to new and returning students.
"I enjoy the heck out of it. My dad gave it to me, and he was pretty particular, and I kind of learned to be that way," he said. "It's kind of enjoyable, and I get to hand it on down."
For regulars, enrichment classes offer not only intellectual stimulation but social opportunities that keep them coming back each semester.
"You meet such great people. We've got really good friends that we never would have had if we hadn't done this," Rupp said.
Nancy Burch has been taking woodworking classes for seven years. During that time, she has built a king-sized headboard, two bedside tables and a full-sized dresser. She says she has always been interested in woodworking and is happy that GCCC gives her the opportunity to take it now.
"At our high school, girls weren't allowed to take shop. I always wanted to do this," Burch said. "When I retire, this is what I'm going to do."
For new student Mary Burroughs, upholstery class gives her an opportunity to give new life to a family heirloom.
"I've had this chair for over 30 years, and I've wanted so bad for it to be part of my living room," she said, adding that she has wanted it re-upholstered for years but couldn't find anyone to do the quality of work she wanted.
"If it looks bad, it's going to look bad because I did it," she said.
Burroughs says that the class is also a productive way to keep herself busy.
"My sons left for college, my husband's a truck driver so he's gone all the time. This is what I'm doing," she said.
Through years of woodworking with her father and upholstering with her mother, Rupp and her parents have refurbished, resorted and built projects that fill their own homes, family members' homes and a 100-year-old farmhouse they are refurbishing in Oklahoma.
"You just never run out of projects. It's kind of like a bug, you can't stop wanting to do what's next," Rupp said. "It's a great time to spend with the family, and I like that it's kind of a payback to all of the taxpayers for all of the time we have supported the school all these years through tax money, and we still get to benefit by taking classes and things."
For Bonebreak, woodworking is all about enjoying life.
"It's been a very rewarding thing. I'll tell ya, we just have fun. Someone will ask 'What are you doing? What are you making now?' and I will say 'a lot of saw dust,'" he says with a laugh. "I certainly enjoy my woodworking. If I didn't have this, I'd go wacko totally."
This semester, in addition to woodworking and upholstery, the GCCC office of Business and Community Education is offering courses for individuals interested in ballroom dancing, knitting, musical theater, and power tools, and hopes to add several culinary courses in the near future.
Warta hopes to eventually expand programs in order to get more people signing up for classes and keep them coming back year after year.
"We want to appeal to all ages," she said. "Once you come in the doors, it makes it easier to sign up for something else."