During a welcoming orientation on Tuesday, Jill and Dave Windahl were among the few who stood up in the packed Taggart Student Center Ballroom indicating they were newcomers to Utah State University’s Summer Citizens program.
The couple from Tuscon said in an interview they enrolled to get away from the summer heat, try something their friends had suggested and, not surprisingly, learn something new.
“It’s a chance for us to kind of stretch maybe phyiscally, but also mentally,” Dave said. “It may be tiring sometimes, but that’s OK.”
Summer Citizens, founded in 1976, is a program for seniors that allows them to take courses from Utah State University professors and explore what Cache Valley and Utah have to offer.
Though the concept never changed over the last 42 years, USU officials are touting good news and some of the program’s new offerings.
Linda D’Addabbo, program coordinator for Summer Citizens, said the program has 783 registered participants this year. That’s more than a 100-person jump from the year before, she said.
“Summer Citizens spreading the word is No. 1,” said D’Addabbo, when asked about the reasons behind the increase in participants this year.
She also attributes the increase to a recruitment team that includes Gary Griffin, of the Utah Festival Opera and Musical Theatre, and Julie Hollist Terrill, director of the Cache Valley Visitors Bureau.
The team typically travels to multiple Western states to inform seniors about the Summer Citizens program. This year, they only traveled to Arizona to recruit and not other states like California or Texas because participants from those states have not been very high, D’Addabbo noted.
While recruitment for Summer Citizens is holding steady, she said, the program is retaining elements that work well and adding new things, too.
According to D’Addabbo, Summer Citizens will continue the talent show it started last year.
But it will also add numerous classes, including one about the history of the Shoshone Native American Tribe, taught by Darren Parry, the chairman of the Northwestern Band of the Shoshone Nation. It’s one of the classes the Windahls said they signed up for.
“We’re just really interested in other cultures,” Jill said.
Also new this year for Summer Citizens: an overnight bus tour of Park City and Midway.
“You have to bring something new to the program, and we’ve done a lot of tours around Cache Valley,” D’Addabbo said. “They want to see what else is out there.”
On Tuesday, participants of Summer Citizens crowded the second floor of the Taggart Student Center for a welcome orientation that included Logan Mayor Holly Daines and representatives from numerous businesses around town.
“Welcome, welcome to our beautiful city. We are delighted to have you,” Daines told Summer Citizens. “You’re such an important part of the summers in Logan.”
After remarks from the representatives wrapped up, a fair showcasing those businesses was set up in the TSC lounge for Summer Citizens. They were able to try on jewelry from S.E. Needham’s Jewelers, sample pizza from Lucky Slice or sign up for a card with the Logan Library.
Adult Services Librarian Jason Cornelius said Logan Library tries “to be everyone’s library.”
“The summer residents come in and maybe don’t know that they can get a library card when they’re here during the summer, the short time, and we’re here to tell them that they can,” Cornelius said. “Our summer residents are different because … they end up asking different kinds of questions than we typically get through the year.”
Jill Windahl said she and her husband are “looking forward to the adventure” of exploring Utah. Dave noted he and Jill had been overseas for much of the last few years before coming home to Arizona.
“We almost see this … as like going overseas in our own country,” he said. “This is all new territory, and the Summer Citizens program is new to us and going to stretch our brains a little bit.”