Residents Explore Passions in the Classroom

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Singers from the Seattle Opera preview works as part of Judson Park’s College of Intellectual Inspiration.Elvis and Buddy Holly. Women as change agents in politics. Volcanology. All are topics that residents of Judson Park in Des Moines, Washington, explored in college-level classes this fall.

The best part? Residents didn’t travel to college — they brought the classes to themselves through Judson Park’s College of Intellectual Inspiration. In session since spring 2016, the resident-driven project was made possible by anonymous donors, says Andrea Schulte, planned giving advisor for the HumanGood Foundation.

“The choice of classes is challenging and interesting, and the quality of the speakers is just phenomenal,” Schulte says.

The donors had an ambitious objective to support intellectual growth, specifying that the programming be resident-driven. To meet that goal, several residents gather as a committee to determine the kind of topics to pursue.

“Our principal job is to look for speakers and establish an academic calendar of speakers,” says Joe Grillo, advisory committee member.

From a community college up the street to the University of Washington at Tacoma, the college draws on a breadth of resources to offer expertise to residents. Grillo says the committee serves to represent the wishes of the community, relying heavily on resident feedback.

“We try to talk to our residents about things that they’re interested in,” he says. “The way we first organized this committee, we started with a survey of the residents, and we gave them a whole bunch of topics, and we wanted to rate them as to their interests.”

Residents expressed preferences for such topics as current events, like the U.S. election; the arts, including the Seattle symphony; and science, like airplanes and space.

Grillo noted a commonality among requests — subjects of substance.

“One of the things we discovered when we started talking with the residents was that there was a big thirst for more meaty topics in the program,” he says.

The sky’s the limit for the scope of the college, although for now, its pupils are simply enjoying the journey.

“We’re not exactly sure yet where all of this is going to go,” Schulte says. “Maybe we’ll open it up to the outside community, maybe collaborate with a college. Right now it’s still in the beginning stages, and it’s exciting to see it going over so well.”

Schulte adds that the success of the college is a shining example of how passions can be put to practice when donors and the Foundation build meaningful relationships.

“This just goes to show you that when you start building relationships with people, and you find what’s in their philanthropic hearts — what they want to leave as a legacy — the results can be thrilling,” she says.

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