Start Something New with Community Education at COCC

Mediterranean cuisine, Spanish language, comedic improv and restoring watershed habitat are just a few of the plentiful — and affordable — Community Education offerings at COCC

On a brilliant afternoon in a Cascade Culinary Institute kitchen at Central Oregon Community College (COCC), retired attorney Vickie Minor mastered the fine art of cooking a whole chicken.  

“It always came out under- or overcooked,” the Bend resident conceded of past poultry efforts. Lots of chicken recipes use a guesstimate cook time, Minor discovered, but there is no better lesson than actually seeing it done — so she signed up for a COCC Community Education culinary class. Key takeaways from the immersive learning experience: dark meat cooks differently than white meat, trussing a bird is beneficial for even heating, and always let it “rest” after cooking to help keep the juices intact. “I now make whole chicken for dinner many times a month.”

That was several years — and many culinary classes — ago. Minor will soon take her 25th class (“Sautéing in Italy,” which starts on March 25) with the college’s Community Education program, an ongoing learning journey that has led to a kitchen ease with everything from risottos to sautéed scallops. “The classes have boosted my knowledge base, and along the way, I happily started experimenting and cooking on the fly using whatever I had in my pantry,” she said.

Sparking a happy, experimental response to learning is a common Community Education outcome — where topics are presented in an interactive, affordable and easy-to-try format. Most classes are in-person; many are offered remotely for convenience.

The offerings comprise a deep catalog, from conversational Spanish, golf essentials and avalanche awareness skills to novel writing, oil painting and estate planning. This year’s upcoming spring/summer digital catalog, available at beginning Feb. 15 — and viewable online now as individual descriptions at — will allow users to browse and register directly from the listings.

Just as chef Candy Argondizza — a recipient of the International Association of Culinary Professions’ Educator of the Year award — brings a sage eye to chicken preparation, other local experts, from past National Homebrewer of the Year Randy Scorby to master comedic improviser Renny Temple, share specialized skills and talents.

“I have been in the entertainment industry for many decades, which includes performing improv on stage and TV in New York and Los Angeles, and teach how improv rules and tools can change lives,” said Temple. His eight-session workshops — halted during the pandemic, now back in the spotlight — are designed to address stage fright and treat risk-taking as a necessity. “Improv skills deliver a unique experience of on-your-feet, enhanced decision-making, improved confidence, superior communication skills and greater creativity,” he added. “On stage — and in life.” Classes start Jan. 9.

A new lecture series, beginning Feb. 7, will explore the science and conservation of local watersheds — one on the upper Deschutes, the other on the Metolius River — and feature a diverse roster of natural resources professionals, facilitated by the Upper Deschutes Watershed Council in partnership with Community Education.

“We’re excited to have 10 different knowledgeable speakers for our ‘Learn About Your Home Waters’ series,” said Kolleen Miller, the organization’s education director. “Doug Hancock with the Friends of the Metolius, for instance, joins us as one of the presenters for our speaker series about the Metolius River. He brings over 30 years of experience and knowledge about water quality conditions and conservation priorities.” The two multi-week series, both culminating in a daylong field trip, will also explore topics of river hydrology, habitat restoration, wildlife, ecology and native fish populations. Class sessions are offered in-person and remotely.

Explorations a little further from home include “Dreaming of Portugal” (begins Feb. 20), which touches down virtually in Porto, Lisbon and the Algarve Coast for cultural and historical discoveries, and “Trip Around the World” (begins May 3), which traipses online through Spanish-speaking places like Machu Picchu, Puerto Rico and Mexico City, giving participants a chance to interact in Spanish at every locale.

From writing poetry (begins Jan. 14) to scripting comic books in Japanese anime style (begins May 6) to planting an attractive pollinating garden (begins April 10), even spurring healthy New Year’s resolutions like practicing yoga for strength (starting Jan. 10), the diverse Community Education lineup offers lasting lessons. And something else, too: “It is just plain fun. Being back in a classroom as a retiree student is a joy to me,” said culinary devotee Vickie Minor.

Start your own community learning journey today, and see how far you can go. Call 541-383-7270 or visit to view the complete listings.

By Mark Russell Johnson, COCC Staff Writer

COCC Community Education