Mary Alyce Smith posing for picture

I discovered OLLI at a turning point in my life. After 3 years of caring for my husband of 50 years who passed away from ALS, I found myself with a lot of time and energy, and nothing to do with it. My daughter-in-law was familiar with OLLI at Northern Illinois University, and suggested I “give it a try.” The idea of staying mentally active, gaining knowledge, having fun and not having to take exams really appealed to me. Plus paying one flat fee for the number and variety of classes offered was the final selling point.

In addition to the educational portion, OLLI presented an opportunity to do something more that is very dear to me, and that is volunteering. Volunteers enhance the student experience by becoming instructors, coffee room hosts, classroom hosts and raising funds to keep tuition low, among other things. Imagine if we had to pay for everything they do. Because I have had so many opportunities and experiences that enriched my life, I wanted to give back, and volunteering provides a way for me to do that.

My first volunteer opportunity was telling people about the program at a community event for seniors at the Rio. I enjoyed it so much I continued to look for other ways to help. I have met some wonderful people at the OLLI Open House, and I’ve been a classroom host for almost every class I’ve taken. I am a member of the OLLI Steering Committee, a member of the Volunteerism & Community Outreach Committee, helped with student mailings each semester, and participated in the Phon-a-thon. And just a hint—if volunteering is not your thing, don’t talk to Gayle or Fran. The mission of OLLI at UNLV is "to challenge the mind and stimulate the spirits of retired and semi-retired adults; to energize your mind, make new friends, and become part of a growing and vibrant community of lifelong learners." I see volunteering as a big part of that mission. Engaging my mind through classes and uplifting my spirits through helping and sharing with other members keeps me excited about doing whatever I can to promote OLLI whenever and wherever I can. So now I tell every “seasoned” adult about OLLI every chance I get. And some have even joined.