For 81-year-old Janet Anderson, going to college was a far-removed possibility due to her responsibilities as a mother and U.S. Air Force wife that she was given early on in life. In comparison, her friend and neighbor, 77-year-old Joan Larcom, has earned several degrees within her lifetime including a B.A. in English Literature, and an M.A. and Ph.D. in Anthropology.

Despite their different backgrounds in education, both Larcom and Anderson have found themselves at KCC auditing classes for the benefit of simply learning new things that align with their spheres of interest.

Larcom was the first to get into auditing classes back in 2006 when she first heard about the Senior Visitor Program at U.H. Mānoa, which allows for seniors (aged 60 and above) who are Hawaiʻi residents to attend courses provided at U.H. for free. However, senior students aren’t allowed to receive credit for auditing the classes.

Janet Anderson (left) and Joan Larcom (right) are taking Journalism 150 as their second class that they have audited together at KCC. (Photo by Kayla Valera)

Having moved back to Hawaiʻi in 2005 after retiring from her position as a foreign aid, Larcom leaped at the opportunity to go back to school and steadily took as many courses as she could handle during a semester. Larcom has taken so many courses that it’s hard for her to recall just how many she’s done. Eventually she made her way to KCC in Fall 2014 after being recommended to the music course, Piano 1. Since then Larcom has been taking classes at KCC so long as her health permits. The only time she had taken off was in Spring 2017 while she was recovering from a knee surgery.

Fall 2016 was when she invited Anderson to attend classes with her at KCC. Given the tension between the Middle East and the U.S., Larcom decided that the course Politics of the Middle East, taught by Professor Joe Overton, would be a class worth sitting in. This class was also the first college course that Anderson had ever sat in since she had put off going to a university and instead got married at the age of 19.

“Jan is so bright and she could have done anything that I did, so I asked her if she wanted to do it and she signed on …” said Larcom about Anderson’s willingness to take classes with her. “She’s got a lively mind and this is good for her. It’s right down the hill for her and it’s free.”

Both Anderson and Larcom live in the same apartment complex in Leʻahi Avenue and commute to school together. While Larcom has been living alone since her move to Hawai’i,  Anderson came to the islands from Dallas, Texas, to care for her son Kenneth, who’s a single parent, and her grandson Devon.

After having taken the Politics of the Middle East course together, the pair decided to enroll in Journalism 150, Introduction to Mass Media, this semester after Larcom had fully recovered from her surgery. Their choice in enrolling in this class was due primarily to the current issue with the media and its involvement with politics, especially from the 2016 presidential election.

It was Anderson who had first reached out to Professor Kim Baxter to ask for permission to sit in the class. Though Baxter had not heard of this program offered at KCC, she was willing to welcome both Anderson and her friend Larcom into her classroom after receiving their email early in August.

“Joan and I have been through an age where newspaper was everything to us, and we’re in a class with kids that have never really wanted to touch one because they have everything on their phone and the internet,” said Anderson about the importance of journalism to her and Larcom’s generation compared to that of her classroom peers.

While there was some hesitance on Larcom and Anderson’s part on intruding in the learning environment of paying students, both overcame their shyness and quickly participated in the class as a regular student would. Both Anderson and Larcom contribute  in class discussions and take part in the current events quiz given in class – though only Anderson has so far turned in the writing assignments.

“In the other class [Politics of the Middle East], since we took a whole semester, there was a camaraderie, and we enjoyed it so much,” said Anderson about her interaction with the students in her classes. “And it even seemed that where we often don’t want to intrude on young people’s lives, because they might think we’re old fuddie duddies (laughs), it hasn’t been that way at all. They were very open to us and we had a lot of great discussions.”

Though Anderson and Larcom decided not to do further projects such as the class presentation of media for the journalism course, both are content in learning as much as they can along with the other students in their class.

“I’m really happy with how engaged they are in the classroom, which is the most important part for me,” said Baxter, who is also the Kapiʻo News advisor, about her experience with Larcom and Anderson auditing her class.”They’re contributing, not just to the discussion, but to everybody’s overall understanding to what we’re talking about. I think it’s really good.”

Now that Anderson knows how to apply for auditing a class, she shares that she would like to enroll in an art class at KCC to further her longstanding passion of art. Larcom fully supports her friend’s pursuit of a college education and encourages Anderson to get involved in more classes through the Seniors Visitor program.