Lifelong Learning With Friends

Welcome to

Lifelong Learning With Friends

A postsecondary education program aimed at adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities.  

It is our pleasure to introduce Lifelong Learning With Friends, the newest iteration of what was previously known as Informal Classes for Adults with IDD at the University of Texas at Austin.

Lifelong Learning With Friends will provide the same excellence that students and families have come to expect and shares its predecessor’s mission: to provide adult learners with intellectual and developmental disabilities access to stimulating, diverse and fun post-secondary opportunities. Reverse inclusion is still at the program’s core – meaning – that neurotypical college-age students will learn and have fun alongside their neurodiverse peers. To surmount problems with transportation and to protect the health and safety of our students and staff, summer semester classes will be held entirely online, allowing our courses to be open to individuals across the entire country for the first time. This unique opportunity to make long-term friends with students near and far is an exciting one! In addition to widening access to courses, Lifelong Learning With Friends will be expanding the number of courses offered each semester by over double what was previously available through the University of Texas, guaranteeing there’s a course (or three!) to fit every student’s area of interest.

The skills obtained through the Lifelong Learning with Friends courses represent building blocks for future higher education and employment opportunities. Social skills and professionalism are built into the curriculum and expectations of every class regardless of subject matter. These attributes are crucial to acquiring and maintaining a job. Students will learn how to follow multi-step directions, be accountable for their work, take direction, self-advocate and how to express themselves in a professional manner. The ability to communicate with a variety of people is an essential tool for employability across fields. LLWF gives students the opportunity to hone and practice these skills that they will carry with them long after the course concludes. 

Watch the video to learn more about Lifelong Learning With Friends

Summer 2021 Schedule: Courses, Instructors, Dates, and Times
(Central Standard Time)

Course TitleInstructorEnrollmentClass FeeDayDatesTimes
Vikings Invade! Adventures through SwedenNatalie Osterlund13$125Mondays6/7/21-7/12/216:00-8:00 p.m. CST
The Art of AdvertisingTerrance Needom13$125Tuesdays6/8/21-7/13/216:00-8:00 p.m. CST
Dancing Around the WorldShilpa Rajagopal13$125Wednesdays6/9/21-7/14/216:00-8:00 p.m. CST
Digital Photography for AllNorys Rodriguez13$125Thursdays6/10/21-7/15/216:00-8:00 p.m. CST
From Howdy to Hi, How Are You: Texas MusicErik Seaholm13$125Sundays6/13/21-7/18/216:00-8:00 p.m. CST
Environmentalism and You: Mother Earth Needs Our Help!Jessica McGrew13$125Mondays7/19/21-8/23/2110:00 a.m.-12:00 p.m. CST
Yoga for Everyone: Namaste!Emily Yisa (Hammons)13$125Tuesdays7/20/21-8/24/216:00-8:00 p.m. CST
Captivating Conversation: How to Strike Up a FriendshipLucy Gross13$125Wednesdays7/21/21-8/25/216:00-8:00 p.m. CST
Chocolate Fanatics Unite! All About ChocolateKaelin Rubenzer13$125Thursdays7/22/21-8/26/216:00-8:00 p.m. CST
Poetry in Motion: Love, Humor, and Into the BeyondJoshua Levy13$125Sundays7/25/21-8/29/216:00-8:00 p.m. CST
Occasional absences due to vacation and illness are accepted.

Contact Us

Please do not hesitate to reach out to with any questions and concerns. Thank you for sharing your enthusiasm for elevated and continual learning for all with us! We are excited to meet all of you soon!

Summer 2021 Courses

All Classes are
Central Standard Time

Vikings Invade! Adventures through Sweden, Taught by Natalie Osterlund
Mondays 6/7/21 to 7/12/21, 6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. CST

Are you ready to wield Thor’s hammer? Have you ever wondered about Norse myths and legends? This course will explore the truths, and falsehoods, behind modern interpretations of Vikings and Swedish culture. We will look closely at the variety of Norse stories, gods, history, continuing traditions of Swedish peoples, and current culture of Sweden. We will also investigate the transformation of how these stories have fueled tv shows, movies, and comics. Guest speakers include a Scandanavian studies expert and a Viking art historian. Students will also share what they learned about Sweden from their homework with UT student volunteers each week.
Click Here to Enroll

The Art of Advertising, Taught by Terrance Needom
This class is cancelled. We hope to provide it in Fall 2021.
Tuesdays 6/8/21 to 7/13/21, 6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. CST
Are you curious about how advertising works? Fun With Advertising will look at different ways companies advertise and market their products and services. This class will have students create a fun advertising campaign for a product or service. Students will learn how to create logos, magazine ads, a radio script and storyboard for a television commercial for a mock product.  The class will also learn different ways to market their products. Students will need basic art supplies for this class, such as colored pencils, construction paper, scissors, old magazines.

Dancing Around the World, Taught by Shilpa Rajagopal
Wednesdays 6/9/21 to 7/14/21, 6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. CST

Dance is more than just movement – it’s a way of expressing yourself, sharing stories, and creating through art! Join us as we learn about all the things that make dance wonderful around the world. We will be exploring the historical and cultural contexts of different dance styles across South America, Europe, Asia, and the United States. Students will have the opportunity to engage in discussions about dance history at a global level; discover the diverse roles of music, costuming, and choreography; and hopefully learn a few new steps in the process! 
Click Here to Enroll

Digital Photography for All, Taught by Norys Rodriguez
Thursdays 6/10/21 to 7/15/21, 6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. CST

This beginner digital photography course is meant to help you master your digital camera, iPad, or even just your cell phone camera! Learn the basic functions of your camera so you can begin capturing higher-quality images of the people and places around you. Throughout the course, you’ll complete a series of photo projects that will help you practice the skills you are learning. Your teacher will work with you, reviewing your photos and helping you improve as you complete the program. By the time you finish, you will have the skills and know-how to take photographs like a pro.
Click Here to Enroll

From Howdy to Hi, How Are You: Texas Music, Taught by Erik Seaholm
Sundays 6/13/21 to 7/18/21, 6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. CST

So you think you know Texas music? You may be a Willie Nelson super fan but this course will introduce you to lesser known but equally iconic songwriters and musicians from the Lone Star State. This class will explore the evolution of music in Texas and the American Southwest, emphasizing how music reflects the richly diverse ethnic and cultural heritage of the region. We will discuss the importance of ethnic identity and other social, political, and economic factors in shaping Southwest heritage, its people, and its music. Bring your ears, your thinking caps (otherwise known as cowboy hats) and your opinions to this class!
Click Here to Enroll

Environmentalism and You: Mother Earth Needs our Help!, Taught by Jessica McGrew
Mondays 7/19/21 to 8/23/21, 10:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. CST

The late environmental advocate John Muir said “When one tugs at a single thing in nature, he finds it attached to the rest of the world.” Scientific researchers are showing us that human activities are at the root of earth’s environmental decline. The good news is intentional actions we take in our home and workplaces can help reduce our depletion of the earth’s resources. Recycling is great, but there’s so much more we can do to help Mother Earth! Using “The 5 R’s” of a zero waste lifestyle from Bea Johnson’s accessible book Zero Waste Home, we’ll take a look at how we can make small and large changes to waste less and enjoy what we have more.
Click Here to Enroll

Yoga for Everyone: Namaste!, Taught by Emily Yisa (Hammons)
This class is cancelled. We hope to offer it again in the future.
Tuesdays, 7/20/21 to 8/24/21, 6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. CST
Whether you practice yoga daily or have no clue what yoga is, this class is for all. Yoga is one way to bring people together and in this class it is accessible to everyone. Each week students will connect socially before engaging in a 20-30 minute yoga practice. There will also be some time each week to dive into yoga topics, such as the history and health benefits of yoga, and reflect on the effects of the practice. Scared to try yoga? No worries. In this class there will be plenty of modifications offered (you can even do yoga in your chair!).
NOTE FROM INSTRUCTOR: Students may want to have props available (e.g., a yoga mat or towel to practice on, a chair, water bottle, etc.). 

Captivating Conversation: How to Strike Up a Conversation, Taught by Lucy Gross
Wednesdays 7/21/21 to 8/25/21, 6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. CST

Communication is more than just talking. It’s about listening, responding and remembering. This class will help students practice meeting new people and making meaningful connections, while learning what information is private and unsafe to share with people we’re just getting to know. We will play games and use role play to build up our conversational muscle. Have you got something to say? Come share it with us and make some new friends in the process!
Click Here to Enroll

Chocolate Fanatics Unite! All About Chocolate, Taught by Kaelin Rubenzer
Thursdays, 7/22/21 to 8/26/21, 6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. CST

Prepare your palate for a sweet adventure! Come explore the rich history, science, and economics of every sweet tooth’s favorite: chocolate! Students will learn about chocolate in different global cultures, chocolate’s health benefits and addictive qualities, and the amazing process of transforming humble cacao beans into what we know and love. What food class would be complete without tasting it? There will be an additional course fee of $20 to ensure a wide variety of chocolate tastings accompanied with every class. The instructor will contact each student and their family to coordinate delivery of our yummy class materials according to their place of residence.
Click Here to Enroll

Poetry in Motion: Love, Humor, and Into the Beyond, Taught by Joshua Levy
Sundays, 7/25/21 to 8/29/21, 6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. CST

Simply sublime – get ready for rhyme time! Transform into an amazing poet before you know it. Discover poetry styles that go for miles. Compare and contrast free verse when you put it in reverse. Determine that a sonnet may or may not have a bonnet on it. Compose an ode to joy, an ode to a girl, or an ode to a boy. Rap about a veggie wrap covered in holiday gift wrap. Analyze a haiku to determine whether it’s for me, you, or for a shoe. Shall we be brave and conquer a villanelle? Oh, do tell! This course will include interactive discussions with your classmates and volunteers, engaging activities, and meaningful homework assignments. Our last class will have each student sharing their favorite poets, their favorite poems, and performing their own original poetry.
Click Here to Enroll

Love our program? Check out our new LLWF T-shirts!

If you are interested in a t-shirt you can add the optional $30 t-shirt fee while registering for a class. One of our team members will reach out to you to confirm which design and size (S-5XL) you would like, and where you would like your t-shirt shipped. Shipping is free!

Summer 2021 Instructors

Natalie Osterlund has been a passionate volunteer with Lifelong Learnin

g with Friends for over three years. She was raised in League City, Texas and moved to Austin in 2018 to attend the University of Texas at Austin for Neuroscience and Art History. She discovered her passion for teaching as a Kumon tutor in high school, teaching children with learning difficulties how to read fluently.  Natalie is also currently a Camp Educator at the Austin Children’s Museum Thinkery, teaching children the joys of Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Math (STEAM)! She is currently pursuing a Bachelor’s degree and is applying to medical school to become a Pediatrician.

Terrence Needom has been teaching and mentoring in Special Education for 17 years. He is currently a teaching assistant with the AISD Go Project, which is a community-based transition program for students with disabilities who are 18-22 years of age. He is also working on a Master’s Degree in Leadership and Curriculum Development at Southeastern Oklahoma State University. Barbra Streisand would be at the top of his dinner party guest list.  

Shilpa Rajagopal graduated from UT Austin this past spring with degrees in biology and marketing. She has been volunteering with the Lifelong Learning with Friends (formerly UT Informal Classes) program since February 2019 and is excited to share her love for the performing arts with students. In her free time, Shilpa enjoys dancing and choreographing (she was a member of UT’s Indian classical dance team for the past four years), reading, and watching stand-up comedy. 

At the age of 18 years old, Norys Rodriguez pursued studies at the Puerto Rican School of Plastic Arts, where she dedicated five years to fine arts studies. At the age of 20, Norys worked at a Broadcasting TV station as a set design artist, painter and props crafter. Continuing on this journey, she graduated with a BA Degree, in Theatrical Arts/Stage Design. For 12 years Norys has discharged herself as a versatile artist within the theatrical arts in Puerto Rico as: A Stage Manager, scenic arts, stage designing/construction and lighting designer. As a photographer she specializes in digital fine art photography (photomontages, still life and portraits), restoration, and commercial photography. In August 2008, Norys left Puerto Rico and moved to Texas to continue her education. In 2010 she enrolled at the Academy of Art University and graduated in May of 2015 with an MFA in Fine Art Photography. Currently she works for the AISD as a Teacher’s Assistant for the Go Project.

Erik Seaholm is currently a lead instructor at the AISD GO Project. He has also taught classes at St. Edwards University as an adjunct professor. Besides teaching, Mr. Seaholm is an avid LP vinyl collector and loves music. After 15 years of working in record stores, there is very little music trivia that can stump Erik (but you can always try…)!

Originally from Texas, Jessica McGrew now calls “The Natural State” of Arkansas home with her husband and cat. She worked over a decade with children and adults with IDDs and wrote a Masters degree research paper on the effects of massage therapy on individuals with disabilities. During her four years as an Austin resident, Jessica taught some of the most popular classes for adults with IDDs through the UT Informal Classes in 2014-2015 and is glad to be reunited with the program under its new name. In 2016, Jessica felt called to be a massage therapist and has been licensed since 2017. She comes from a BIG family, loves the great outdoors, observes a pescatarian diet, and has set up a recycling practice wherever she has lived and worked.

Emily Yisa has 10 years of experience working with individuals with IDDs. She has volunteered and taught classes through UT’s Informal Classes for adults with IDDs. She started a book club for adults with Down syndrome through DSACT in 2013 and continues to facilitate it today. Emily taught life skills for 6 years at Crockett Early College High School. In 2017 Emily received her 200 hour yoga certification. Emily is excited to combine her love of yoga and her passion of working with individuals with IDDs! 

Lucy Gross, Program Director for Lifelong Learning With Friends, is a practicing social worker with over eleven years of experience working with adults with disabilities. She co-founded SAGE Studio, a studio and gallery for Texas-based artists with intellectual and developmental disabilities in Austin. She currently works at AISD’s Go Project, a transitional program for special education students ages 18–22, and as the Program Director for Lifelong Learning With Friends. She earned her undergraduate degree at Emerson College and her master’s of social work at Texas State University.

Kaelin Rubenzer, Program Coordinator for Lifelong Learning With Friends, is a graduate from the University of Texas at Austin with a Bachelor of Science in Neuroscience and has worked with adults with disabilities in vocational and educational settings for over five years. After volunteering more than any other volunteer in the program, Kaelin began teaching courses ranging from Global Cultures Culinary Arts, Crime Scene Investigations, Escapade through Asia, and Adaptive Outdoor Activities. She works as a personal care attendant for several families with children and adults with IDDs and conducts research on Fragile X and autism at UT. Kaelin loves to cook, garden, listen to true crime and science podcasts, go car-camping, and learn a new crafting hobby every month.

Joshua Levy has been teaching individuals with disabilities for over 30 years. He is the Founder and Executive Director for Joshua’s Stage, an enrichment program for individuals with a wide range of special needs featuring after-school programs, camps, and workshops through activities in the performing arts. He is the President of Joshua Levy Educational Consulting; facilitating parents, educators, and children’s museums to strengthen their relationships with individuals with disabilities. He is the author of The Creative Outlet Method: At-Home Activities for Children with Special Needs. Joshua enjoys cooking, running, spending time with family, and dog time. 

Jon Pierce is the father of an adult with Down syndrome. He obtained his PhD at the Univ of Oregon followed by a postdoc at UCSF Medical School. He conducts research on Down syndrome, autism, Alzheimer’s disease, and more as Associate Professor at the Univ Texas at Austin. He founded Lifelong Learning With Friends and its predecessor programs so that adults with IDDs could access the sophisticated learning and deep friendships unique to the college experience. Over the past decade, he offered over 120 unique courses to hundreds of adults with IDDs to learn alongside college student volunteers. 

Outreach Team

Kaelin Rubenzer
Natalie Osterlund
Shilpa Rajagopal
Elizabeth Rodriguez
Haity Yu Qin
Courtney Williams

Check out our program’s previous courses.

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