“Miraculous” is what Rudy and Lori Melena call the revitalizing role of the Enrichment Program in their lives.
Three years ago, the couple were retired but very active with pursuits like volunteering, writing, painting, traveling, and singing in a choir. Then the pandemic hit.
“In the dark winter of 2020, we were home all the time. We just did not go out,” says Rudy.
When DU’s Enrichment Program extended its online outreach, offering many Zoom courses for free during the crisis, the Melenas gave the classes a try. Rudy took a course on Colorado history and loved the instructor’s enthusiasm. They took more classes, on literature and pop art, and fell in love with the program.
“The students in Enrichment classes aren’t coming for a grade; they’re there for the love of learning, and so everyone is really involved with the classes and willing to participate. It’s just a great feeling,” says Rudy.
Eventually, the Melenas volunteered for the program as Zoom co-hosts, providing logistical support to instructors during online sessions. Helping out behind the scenes of multiple classes has given them a unique perspective.
“It’s been really eye-opening,” says Lori. “One woman taught a class on how to cook a French meal, and she was actually Zooming in from France, so it was like we were there with her in France for a while.”
In that class’s test session, the cooking demonstration steamed up the phone camera until the Melenas intervened. It’s just one of myriad situations the Melenas have helped navigate as Enrichment Program co-hosts. Once they even invited a tech-nervous instructor to their house to guide her through a session in person. It went so well that they celebrated with wine afterward over their newfound common interests.
“There’s such a huge variety of classes that [the Enrichment Program] offers,” says Lori, listing topics like forensic psychology, birdwatching, religions of Egypt, and historic libraries. “We’ve had wonderful experiences that take you out of your normal mindset and let you learn new things.”
The couple remain students at heart. They still relish browsing through the program’s catalog when it comes out twice every year.
“This was an immensely uplifting, positive thing that came into our life during the pandemic shut down,” says Rudy. “Minds should be kept busy.”