Maybe I'm just getting old, but I seem to recall back-to-school month being September. Those first weeks of school bring back memories of the World Series and the smell of autumn. Nowadays, the World Series is creeping toward November and schools all across the country start classes in August. So it goes at the Peralta Colleges where classes start Monday.

Back-to-school days are always filled with a hectic whirlwind of activity. It's a festive time as teachers scurry to finish up syllabi for their classes and groundskeepers spruce up campuses for the onslaught of eager students.

Fall is the start of the academic year. The Peralta Colleges were to kick things off this year with "Flex Day," a Laney College gathering Wednesday of faculty committed to professional development. Hundreds of seasoned teachers and newly hired faculty were to hear the Peralta Community College District's chancellor, Dr. José M. Ortiz, deliver a spirited "State of the District" speech. Dr. Ortiz was to outline progress made over the past year in accreditation matters (the colleges are fully accredited), budget (hiring new faculty and staff) and technology (software update completed).

State Chancellor Dr. Brice W. Harris was expected to touch the crowd with a keynote address as informative as it was inspirational. Workshops were to be held that ranged from smart classroom training to emergency preparedness. The hubbub of activity was expected to be all the more upbeat with throngs of students enrolling for classes. Mindful that instruction starts Monday, students were to pour over class schedules (hard copy and online) to select the courses they need this fall.

Speaking of enrollment, you might be surprised at the range of classes available at our local community colleges. Whether you want to just take an enriching, fun class, hone your professional skills or prepare to transfer to a four-year university, there's something out there for you this fall.

In the fun category is Beginning Pastel Drawing (Art 66) at Merritt College. There is a lab class for advancing your skills and a lecture class full of techniques, both held Wednesday afternoons. What a perfect class for capturing autumn's colors.

On a more serious note, how about trying the Legal and Community Interpreting Program at Laney College? The program is designed for bilingual English-Spanish speakers who are interested in the growing field of interpretation. The classes (LCI 201-204) cover the essential skills needed for an interpretation career -- and you can even prepare to become a courtroom interpreter.

Berkeley City College's Biotechnology Program allows students to transfer to universities or go directly to work at a Bay Area biotechnology firm. Thanks to a grant from the California Institute of Regenerative Medicine, second-year students can qualify for a nine-month paid internship program. Don't miss this great opportunity.

For those who want to fly high, the Aviation Maintenance Technology Program at the College of Alameda may be your ticket. Approved by the Federal Aviation Administration, the program is designed for working adults. You can attend part-time, taking courses as your schedule allows. The state-of-the-art facility, adjacent to the Oakland airport, lets students get the skills they need to work in a number of highly paid transportation trades. Fasten your seat belt for this one.

To explore community college enrollment this semester, check out www.peralta.edu. Enroll now, and make this the fall that you went back to school. Next month, I'll have more news about the Peralta Colleges, including details on an exciting scholarship fundraiser held by the Peralta Colleges Foundation, which does its part to put the word "community" into our community colleges.

Reach Jeffrey Heyman at jheyman@peralta.edu or follow him on Twitter @jeffheyman.

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