Citizens interested in restoring community education classes as Howard Payne University phases out its program will gather at Brownwood Regional Medical Center later this month.

A meeting has been set for 5:30 p.m. Tuesday, July 22, at the administration meeting room of Brownwood Regional Medical Center.

Eric Morrow, a doctoral student at the J.M. Dawson Institute of Church-State Studies at Baylor University and Brownwood businessman, said Wednesday that response to a letter he sent to numerous area leaders in late May has resulted in the meeting.

“We have about four or five organizations and 15 to 20 individuals who have expressed interest in keeping this going,” Morrow said. “The meeting will be for the discussion of ideas and possibilities for a community education program in our area.”

He said anyone interested in such a program is asked to bring ideas and information to the meeting. Morrow plans to bring information on other programs and grants.

“I’ve lived in other areas of Texas and the nation where they’ve had strong community education programs,” Morrow said. “I’ve seen this work in other ways in different places.”

Earlier this summer, Morrow said refashioning a continuing education program could allow it to add more components “to meet the needs of people in various ways.” However, Morrow said, any such new program will necessarily have to begin small. But he hopes the meeting this summer will allow existing momentum to be sustained, and suggested that it may be possible for some of the more popular classes previously offered by HPU during the past school year to meet in the fall.

“We need to be open to possibilities,” Morrow said. “We’re trying to determine whether there is enough interest out there to come together and say, ‘Let’s do it.’”

Morrow, who is also adjunct faculty at Howard Payne where he has taught courses in Islam and philosophy, said he has consulted with HPU President Dr. Lanny Hall; HPU Dean Dr. Rob Tucker, under whose supervision the continuing education program has been operating; and Pat Locks, continuing education coordinator. Howard Payne will discontinue its program on July 31, after the Summer Scholars and other young persons’ enrichment programs conclude.

“One of the needs we all have at any stage in life is knowledge,” Morrow said. “Whether it is a job skill or a hobby, we are at our best as human beings and citizens when we continue to learn.”

Morrow said a strong, broad-based community education program could enhance the quality of life and appeal of the community. The current situation provides, Morrow said, “a unique opportunity to plan and implement a program that not only continues the quality of previous programs, but it is also a chance to address needs in many areas.” Those include job skills, hobbies, computer skills, certifications, health and sports, languages and business.

“A lot of groups are already doing some of these things and doing them well,” Morrow said, mentioning short-term skills classes available at Texas State Technical College-West Texas and business workshops offered through the Early Chamber of Commerce and Small Business Incubator.

“This program could provide more flexibility and promotion for what they’re doing,” Morrow said. “It would be good to get talking before school has been out too long so we can have something for this fall.” Those classes could possibly include some of the more popular sessions from Howard Payne’s curriculum, like sign language, Spanish and photography.

“There will always be the issue of facilities,” Morrow said, “but if we can get other people behind that, this will be addressed. The goal right now is to see who is interested.”

Such a program, which could possibly become affiliated with a nonprofit organization or other institution, could have a funding advantage because it would be able to seek grant awards, in addition to relying on student fees.

Interested persons can e-mail Morrow at ericmorrow@verizon.net.

“We all share the desire to make our communities even better,” Morrow said. “If there is interest and support, we can certainly develop a community education program that will enhance the lives of many.”