As we move through 2024, many of us have been busy goal setting for the year ahead. We promise ourselves that this is the year that we’ll finally learn how to do that thing that we’ve always been curious about. We vow to figure out Photoshop or pick up tennis or write that screenplay or whatever the goal might be.
I’ve had “learn piano” and “speak Spanish” on my personal list for years. I’ve also been haunted by the feeling of “I wish I could draw” for as long as I can remember. Back in 2022, a friend mentioned that they had taken a sewing class through Los Angeles City College’s Extension Program that they not only enjoyed, but that they could afford. I immediately went to the website in hopes that I could go from “I wish I knew how to do that” to “I’ve taken a class on that!”
Sure, I know there are oodles of YouTube videos explaining and teaching many subjects and skills. And I appreciate those creators for doing that—free access to education is true freedom! But for me, I often need to put some money on the line to actually designate the time, show up and do the damn thing.
I can’t emphasize the “some’’ in “some money” enough. Many of the multi-week, in-person classes listed through LACC’s Extension Program range from about $99 to $250, with workshops as low as $49. To add some perspective, the East Hollywood school’s Sketch Comedy Writing class is $169 for six sessions that are three hours in length; a similar intro class is priced at over $500 at other institutions such as UCB.
If there’s a hobby you’re thinking of picking up (ceramics maybe?), or a new skill you’d like to develop (not sure if you can navigate Excel, but I certainly can’t), you can do it. LACC’s Winter Semester of classes begin as soon as January 20; if you’re not able to jump in quite yet, I’d revisit their website every few months, since they have winter, spring, summer and fall semesters. I’ve taken three classes there so far, with plans to sign up for more.
My first class: tapping into my inner cartoonist.
Being a huge fan of animation and The New Yorker cartoons, I excitedly signed up for my first class at LACC: “Draw Comic Book and Cartoon Characters for Adults.” They also offer this course for young people ages 8 to 15. A heads up for any parents reading: There are lots of class options for kids such as swimming and guitar. Plus, they even have day care options!
The cartoon drawing class cost $75 for five in-person sessions. I live in East Hollywood, so the commute to class was a short walk to the LACC campus on Vermont Avenue. If you’re not within walking distance, fear not: There’s ample parking available, and it’s steps away from the Vermont/Santa Monica stop on the B Line. (Parking spots and a Metro stop?! It’s an L.A. miracle.)
Students were required to bring drawing and colored pencils, an eraser and a pad of paper. Just by having to purchase these materials, I was one step closer to fulfilling my dream of being an amateur cartoonist. Being back in a classroom setting was super nostalgic. As I took a seat at a desk, I was honestly a bit nervous. Not in a sense that something would go wrong, but I had that buzzing energy that only happens as a result of trying something new, the feeling of being a beginner.
The instructor was warm, patient and clearly very passionate about art. After each class I had collected a new character in my drawing pad. Once home, I would enthusiastically show my partner the drawing from that day and say, “I drew this!” Although they were far from perfect, I was proud of myself for finally doing something I had always wanted to do.
Class #2: the musician era.
My second class through LACC was “Piano/Keyboarding for Adults - Beginning.” I had purchased a keyboard during the pandemic with the hopes that I would emerge from it as a Michelle Branch of sorts. That is not what happened. I touched it maybe a total of three times during the lockdown, totaling maybe 45 minutes of play. Tops.
Taking the class got me back at the keys and it was much more productive than my three brief self-taught attempts. Having a teacher there to correct my form was incredibly valuable and playing alongside other novices was really encouraging. These are aspects of a classroom setting that simply cannot be replicated by watching YouTube or reading a book.
Clase número tres.
The most recent class I took at LACC was the most humbling of them all: Spanish Conversation & Pronunciation, Level 1. Personally, I feel a pang of guilt and frustration whenever Spanish is spoken to me and I’m not able to understand or respond. (As someone who lives in Los Angeles and frequents Miami, this happens to me a lot.) I did achieve a long streak on Duolingo leading up to a trip to Spain, but tapping through the language learning app never accomplished what this class did.
In Spain, I was able to recognize the words I had practiced on the app, but I often wasn’t able to understand what was being said, nor was I able to respond in a way that didn’t completely expose me as the ignorant American tourist that I was. A Spanish class that centered around conversation and pronunciation was exactly the kind of help I was looking for. And this help only cost $95 for five in-person sessions that were two and a half hours each. A steal!
After taking these classes, I highly recommend becoming a student again this year, or whenever your schedule allows. LACC’s Extension Program has a huge list of options such as Barista Training; Quick & Dirty Self Defense, Sewing; and even a class called “Find Your Life’s Purpose.” Whether you sign up for something at LACC or not, I urge you to let yourself be new at something again. And again. And again. And—okay, you get it.