LLI Spotlight:  Janna Overstreet, Executive Director, Lifelong Learning Academy of Sarasota, FL

overstreet-jannaBy Peter Spiers

The Lifelong Learning Academy (LLA) of Sarasota, FL, was founded in 1994. While the Academy has had a long relationship with the University of South Florida (USF) and has been housed at USF’s Sarasota-Manatee campus, it is an independent 501(c)(3) organization. That’s about to change. On June 1, 2016, LLA will complete a merger with the Ringling College of Art and Design and move further toward its twin goals of being the lifelong learning program of choice in Sarasota County and contributing to the county’s economic development by helping attract retirees to the area. LLA will take a new name—the Ringling College Lifelong Learning Academy—and will be incorporated into the college’s Continuing Studies and Special Programs unit. While the Academy will initially occupy temporary space, it will eventually take up residence alongside the Sarasota Museum of Art in the rehabbed historic Sarasota High School, a classic Collegiate-Gothic style building erected in 1926. In addition to solving LLA’s space needs, the merger will enable it to expand its outreach to working boomers and its intergenerational programming.

LLA has grown by 40% in the last three years and now serves 600 members and about 2,600 other students in the last year. Members pay an annual fee of $65 and receive three valuable member benefits: early registration, a 10% discount on course fees, and three free lectures each semester. Course fees are based on their length: a one-session course costs $20, a four-session course costs $40, and an eight-session course costs $65. Full-day workshops—essentially a “course in a day”—cost $99 including lunch. LLA offers about 60 courses in the spring and fall terms, 30 in the summer, and more than 100 in the winter.

The Academy has four full-time staff members. One staff member handles finances and membership management, another handles course registration and is the main point of contact for faculty and students, and a third is project coordinator, focusing on outside contracting and marketing. Janna Overstreet is the Lifelong Learning Academy’s Executive Director.

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