The Minderful Center, a private, nonsectarian school for lifelong learners, has expanded its program to offer some of its classes at the Valley of the Sun Jewish Community Center starting in January.

The school is under the direction of John Thaxton, who served as the director of liberal arts lifelong learning programs at the University of Colorado, Denver, and several California state universities for more than 30 years. When Scottsdale Community College's Continuing Education Department closed due to budgetary reasons in 2009, he moved the courses to Temple Chai in Phoenix, where they continue to meet today.

The weekday morning and afternoon classes to be offered at the VOSJCC include film discussions, history classes, a genealogy workshop, writing workshops and computer classes.

"We were looking to expand beyond the card games and the art classes, which we've typically had here with much success, but we wanted to branch out," said Erin Searle, VOSJCC director of adult services and cultural arts. "This was a really great opportunity" to be able to offer more educational classes and discussions.

The classes meet 11 months each year, with new classes starting each month. Classes are about one month long and average about $60 per class.

The partnership is a "real win-win situation," Thaxton said. The JCC gets new programming, the Minderful Center gets more jobs for its teachers and, with each organization promoting the other, both get more exposure, he said.

Teachers from the Minderful Center will be present at the VOSJCC Mind, Body and Soul Health Fair on Jan. 6 to introduce their classes and they will also give presentations during a 10 a.m. brunch for seniors that day.

In addition to the classes held at Temple Chai and the VOSJCC, Thaxton also coordinates "gourmet events," which are lunches at local restaurants, which draw six to 25 participants; each pay for their own meal. This year's restaurants include culinary school restaurants and international restaurants.

While his center's classes offer many learning opportunities, the social and community aspects are also very important, he said. In his classes, students wear name tags so they know who each other are. "They all become friends," he said. "It's a very important part."

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