May 1, 2015
New fundraiser Saturday for Access CVU
By Stephanie Choate
When the high school students head home in the afternoon, the learning isn’t over at Champlain Valley Union High School.
Each evening, community members of all ages flock to the school, taking part in a community education program that offers everything from a one-night Thai cooking class to a 15-week intensive Spanish program.
“We invite everyone to learn,” said Access Co-director Eddie Krasnow. “It’s just pure learning… We’ve had ages 2 to 92 show up.”
Access offers more than 400 classes during the school year, open to anyone who can get themselves to the school. Community members come from more than 70 Vermont towns to take courses.
Williston resident Debbie Page said she usually takes one or two classes each year.
“It helps me get through the winter,” she said. “It’s just totally fun. You get to lea
rn a new hobby and you get to meet other people.”
She has taken a writing course, cooking classes, a Zentangle art class and several years of Spanish. The courses are inexpensive, she added, meaning you can try a variety of options.
Krasnow said the activity at Access has seen steady growth in the past few years, increasing 10-12 percent this year, so program directors decided to add a spring fundraiser. Building off the popularity of its fall craft fair fundraiser, Access CVU is hosting a community craft fair May 3 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the high school. Approximately 80 Vermont crafters will display their creations.
“Really what’s been remarkable is the district’s willingness to not only have the program but encourage the program and be helpful in every way possible,” he said. “Financially, the goal is to support ourselves through fees and fundraisers.”
Fundraisers like the craft fair, as well as course fees, help pay for the costs to keep the school open in the evenings and pay the staff required. Classes generally range from $20 for a one-day course to $215 for more equipment-intensive courses, such as pottery.
Between 2,000 and 2,200 class spots are filled each semester, Krasnow said, noting that some people take multiple classes, so it’s tough to determine exactly how many people participate in the program.
“It’s very much a snowball,” he said. “Originally it was just me making up the list 15 years ago. Now it kind of has a life of its own and I just manage the traffic.”
Approximately 85 percent of the classes offered each semester get enough participation to run, and some classes get so much interest they end up adding more sessions than advertised.
Access offers classes in nearly every form of art available, cooking, music, language, computer skills, fitness, health, games and more. Specialty classes like beekeeping draw participants from across the state.
Krasnow said he and co-director Duncan Wardwell welcome ideas for new classes, and encourage people to suggest a class or offer to teach one.
“We’re always looking for something new,” Krasnow said. “Pretty much we’ll do anything but alcohol and firearms. We see if people have a passion for the same things someone else has a passion for.”
Especially hot right now is wood bowl turning, Krasnow said, with seven classes running.
“We never know what is going to strike people’s fancy,” he said.
Access has approximately 100 community members who regularly teach classes.
Williston resident Sally Dattilio has been teaching cake-decorating classes since Access first started. She teaches people to make frosting, expertly ice cakes, fill cakes, create frosting flowers and more.
“I get them from young 10-year-olds with their parents to senior citizens,” she said of the people who take her classes.
Dattilio said she has also taken classes herself, including art and cooking classes.
“Get out and do it if you can,” she said. “I think it’s a great program…. There’s a lot of different options for people of all ages. I think it’s nice that they’re using the school building in the evenings.”
Krasnow said the quality and variety of the programming and community feel keep people coming back.
“What we appreciate most is that it’s not a business, it’s really a partnership we’ve developed with all the people who come,” he said. “I think that has been a fundamentally sound way of having a community education program.”
He said he and Wardwell try hard to accommodate any issue or concern people have. If residents don’t like a class they try out, Access will give them a refund.
“We want people to try things,” he said. “Everything’s not for everyone.”
Krasnow said he and Wardwell have helped other schools establish similar programs.
“It would be nice if every public building was used this way,” he said.
For more information, visit cvuweb.cvuhs.org/access/