Back to School

December 2014
Written By: 
Denise K. James
Photographs by: 
Courtesy of Linda Ketron
Coastal Carolina's OLLI program puts adults in the hall

Not everyone who lives on the Grand Strand is heading to the surf to frolic the hottest hours of the day away or even buying a tacky souvenir, riding the SkyWheel or chowing down on boardwalk French fries. Some, in fact, are learning new things. And many are doing so through the Coastal Carolina OLLI program, a community enrichment project for adults that offers the opportunity for enlightenment on a multitude of topics.

Directed by Linda Ketron, Coastal’s OLLI program is the second largest in the U.S.—trumped only by the University of Delaware—as well as one of the oldest. It boasts thousands of students each year (roughly 2,400) and keeps adults engaged in intellectual discovery as well as community involvement. Ketron, who has been at the helm since 2007, believes in its power to bring about a more diverse and informed community; she’s seen it happen so far and expects greater success to come.

There is no need to be enrolled at Coastal Carolina University to participate in the OLLI programs, though Ketron assured me that they don’t discriminate. Anyone over the age of 18 is welcome to sign up.

“This is education for the sake of entertainment, enrichment and wellness,” Ketron said. “Retirees discover it’s a great way to socialize and find those with similar interests. But we get plenty of young moms who have a free morning to learn calligraphy or the ukulele as well!”

Becoming a member of the OLLI program is a snap; just $20 each “semester” (they run on the academic year with a fall and spring schedule, much like the University) gives you access to a variety of clubs, as well as to several community discounts. Individual classes are billed separately and range in price from $20 for a single workshop to $125 for a multi-week course. And the community discounts, thanks to partnerships that the OLLI program forms with area attractions and cultural opportunities, are worth it alone. For example, Brookgreen Gardens in Pawleys Island gives $2 off to OLLI members, and many fitness facilities offer a 20 percent discount as well.

OLLI courses are taught at four locations: Myrtle Beach at 79th Avenue North; the Coastal Science Center in Conway; the Litchfield Education Center; and the newest one, the Coastal Marine Science Department building in Georgetown. Ketron hinted that a fifth space, likely in North Myrtle Beach, could be a future project.

Those who are interested in the OLLI program for 2015 can sign up to receive the newsletter Ketron sends to more than 5,000 individuals by going to The winter term begins on Tuesday, January 20. Prior to the winter term, a “Free Week” will take place between Tuesday, January 6, and Thursday, January 8.

The website offers information on becoming a student or even a teacher—as well as course descriptions designed to lure you into the classroom for a worthwhile experience.