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A learning Oasis 

Students in an Oasis tap-dancing class rehearse for a performance.

PHOTO BY MARK CHAMBERLIN

Students in an Oasis tap-dancing class rehearse for a performance.

Whether it's arts, humanities, health, or technology, demand for classes at Oasis Rochester is so high that students have to register through a lottery. And every trimester there's a waiting list, says Priscilla Minster, the organization's director.

The secret to the success of the alternative school for the over-50 crowd is the programming. "I don't have bingo here," says Minster. "Nothing against it, but this isn't a social club."

Oasis offers instead low-priced classes on everything from art history to several levels of Latin and German. Math, science, computer, and fitness classes are also popular. The more unusual classes include basic Arabic, the human brain, and the films of Alfred Hitchcock.

"One of the very most popular is our opera class," says Minster. "We have doctoral students from the Eastman School of Music who come to teach this one, and people love it."

The Oasis Institute is a national non-profit that got its start in St. Louis with the help of the May Foundation. Rochester Oasis, located at 259 Monroe Avenue, is in its 25th year and functions almost entirely through the support of about 140 volunteers, who handle everything from administration to instruction. The organization receives some financial support from Lifetime Care and Monroe County Office for the Aging.

Instructors are often retired teachers and professors from local public schools and area colleges.

"They love teaching here, because our students want to be here," says Minster. "Who wouldn't want to teach a group of students like that?"

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