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Q&A: Main Line School Night’s Claudia McBride

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No one is too old to learn. That’s the premise of Main Line School Night, the nonprofit organization that offers more than 500 noncredit courses at locations in Lower Merion and Radnor townships. As MLSN celebrates its 77th anniversary, Claudia McBride looks back on her first year as its executive director. 

MLT: Isn’t Main Line School Night a misnomer?

CM: Indeed, it is. We have classes on weekdays, weeknights and weekends. Life-long learning is so popular in this area that we’ve expanded our offerings greatly. In fact, ours is one of the largest community education programs in the Mid-Atlantic. 

MLT: How do you decide which courses to offer? 

CM: We do a lot of research and try to reflect the interests of our community, which are always changing. Right now, we have a lot of technology courses, from working with computers to 3-D printing. We have wellness courses like yoga, plus creative-arts and arts-appreciation, professional-
development and self-enrichment courses. We also pay attention to what’s happening in the wider world and try to bring it to the Main Line. We knew that Harper Lee’s second book was coming out, and we know a great professor who teaches about literature from the American South, so we put that together for a course. 

MLT: What are the most popular courses? 

CM: Many of our film-studies courses are very popular. We recently did “Six Films That Changed America.” It was taught by a professor from Yale University, and it sold out. By far our most popular courses are about current events. One of them is “Politics on the Porch,” where we have cocktails and a discussion of current issues. Another is “Controversial Issues Around the Globe.” There’s always a waiting list for it. 

MLT: Which courses haven’t been so popular? 

CM: We do have some clunkers. We have a class titled “What’s the Right CSA for You?” about community-supported agriculture. We thought it’d be great, and people are interested in CSAs—but not enough to attend a course on it. 

MLT: Describe your typical student. 

CM: There isn’t one. We have a strong demographic of people between ages 50 and 65, and we have people much younger than that. I walked into a fashion class one Saturday morning, and it had 15 people under the age of 30. Fitness classes attract a young set, and evening classes have students from 14 to 90. 

MLT: When it comes to not going back to school, what’s the biggest excuse you hear?

CM: “I don’t have the time.” We know that people’s schedules are maxed out. That’s why we offer classes of different durations and
at many different hours of the day and night. And you know what? If you make the time, it’s worth it. 

Photo by tessa marie images

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