Taking an alternative course: Lucia Mar Adult Education Program

While surfers headed down to the beach and people stood in line for clam chowder at Pismo Beach on Thursday, a small group of students seated in a room on the second floor of a nearby building cracked open their textbooks.

Massage therapist Amber Barnard presented the evening’s lesson: when it’s best to massage a client who is pregnant.

“You could have a client come to you her entire pregnancy,” said Barnard, who works at Sycamore Mineral Springs Resort near Avila Beach. “You could help reduce her pain and stress.”

The three women in the class listened closely and took some notes. Later, they walked into an adjoining room to practice the massage techniques they had learned.

They are close to finishing a six-month, 250-hour massage-practitioner program offered by the Lucia Mar Unified School District Adult Education Program.

The massage program is one of several vocational programs that Adult Education has offered over the past two years.

It’s an effort by school administrators to offer alternatives to people looking for a new career path or facing a job change.

As of May, Adult Education enrolled 2,615 students. Of those, 503 participated in vocational education classes, said Charlissa Boaz-Skinner, the program’s principal.

“Adult education used to literally be a place for students who didn’t finish high school ... to come and get their GED,” Boaz-Skinner said.

But once students received their high school diplomas, they were basically done with Adult Education unless they wanted to find a hobby, such as ceramics or fitness classes.

Now, vocational training “affords them an avenue to try some things out and see what direction they might want to go,” Boaz-Skinner said.

Several new classes will be offered this term: Basic AutoCAD, or computer-aided design, an advanced cooking class and landscape design.

Students can also learn automotive maintenance, floral design, basic cooking, voice acting and photography. Costs for the classes range from $60 for eight automotive maintenance classes to $2,500 for the six-month, 250-hour massage practitioner program.

“With the reality of people going back to school ... and people losing their jobs, adult education is very popular right now,” said Brent Brace, who will teach Introduction to Voice Acting this fall. He’ll also hold a one-day seminar on introduction to character voice acting for cartoon animation.

The classes offer certificates of completion at the end, so students can show how many hours they spent training and the curriculum they received.

The massage-practitioner program goes one step further: Students who have successfully completed the program can apply for certification through the California Massage Therapy Council, which was created by the Legislature to develop a certification process for massage professionals.

The first massage practitioner class graduated in March; the current class will finish in August, said program director Deborah Heartwood, who has 25 years of experience in massage therapy.

Classes are limited to 10 students. Advanced classes are also offered for students who work toward a 500-hour massage therapist status. Students who finish the 250-hour program can go on to jobs in chiropractic offices, health care facilities and wellness centers.

Heartwood said all the students in the first massage practitioner course have found jobs in the field.

“I think massage therapy is my future,” said Carla De Freitas-Meade, 37, of Grover Beach. She holds a degree in translation for Portuguese and French, but she noted there are few work opportunities on the Central Coast.

She found the massage program while flipping through a brochure on Lucia Mar’s Adult Education.

“I thought the class would be a great way to help people,” De Freitas-Meade said.

Christina Byrne, a water-quality lab analyst in San Luis Obispo, said she thought learning how to massage would be “neat.”

“I didn’t know if would be so labor-intensive,” said Byrne, 27, pointing to her three textbooks. “I might do it more for supplemental income if I need it.”

Reach Cynthia Lambert at 781-7929. Stay updated on Twitter by following @SouthCountyBeat.

Learn more

Registration for all classes offered through Lucia Mar’s Adult Education program opens Aug. 10. Pre-registration is required.

For information, including program descriptions and costs, go to http://adulted.lmusd.org.

Registration is also available in the Adult Education office at 1425 19th St. in Oceano. Credit cards are accepted online only; cash or checks are accepted in the office.