January and the New Year are always a time of renewal and new beginnings. Resolutions are made -- some are actually kept -- and everyone has a general sense that with spring just around the corner life's possibilities are wide open.

The freshness of new beginnings is palpable on the campuses of our community colleges. The spring semester begins Jan. 21 at Berkeley City College, College of Alameda, and Laney and Merritt colleges in Oakland.

And even better news is that there are still open classes. You can start the new year off by enrolling in anything from American Sign Language to social media and even cutting-edge -- no pun intended -- wood technology classes. Let's take a closer look at some interesting classes and programs happening this semester at the Peralta Colleges.

Laney College boasts a strong series of programs in technical education, all with a career path squarely in focus. The college, located across the street from the Lake Merritt BART station, is known for its status as a national center for the National Science Foundation in part because of its outstanding technical education in various energy efficiency disciplines. Those programs include environmental controls and manufacturing education, programs geared towards helping students find jobs in advanced manufacturing and new technologies.

Laney is a leader too in the construction trades with carpentry, construction management, welding and electricity and electronics controls courses all starting this semester. The college also has culinary arts classes for those who might want to hone their kitchen skills or maybe even open a restaurant. You won't want to miss the rich array of art, dance, theater, journalism, ethnic studies, ESL, humanities, graphic arts, psychology, sociology, and photography classes that Laney College has on tap this spring. Enrolling is just a few clicks away at www.peralta.edu.

The Introduction to Project Management course offered at Merritt College this semester presents some interesting opportunities. This step-by-step guide to becoming a project assistant or project coordinator gets you ready for entry-level salaries starting at $35,000. Aligned with the Project Management Institute, this course provides the management fundamentals you'll need to break into this growth industry.

Working through real-world scenario case studies, students will apply methodologies and good practices of formal project management. They will learn to initiate, plan and execute a project to meet scope-of-work specs and to satisfy stakeholders. Best of all, students will prepared to take and successfully pass the Associate Project Management Certification exam. For more information about this intriguing class, which meets Tuesday and Thursday evenings at Merritt College, please contact the instructor, Marilyn Varnado, at 510-290-9201 or email her at mvarnado@peralta.edu.

Speaking of student success, you might enjoy a video featuring four local community college students who received the 2013 Chancellor's Trophy Award for outstanding academic achievement. Their stories, introduced by Chancellor José M. Ortiz, are truly inspirational. See the Peralta TV video at http://bit.ly/1c6Lefe.

Those award-winning students realized their goals and found their dreams. So can you this year by taking a class or two at our community colleges.

Reach Jeffrey Heyman at jheyman@peralta.edu and follow him at Twitter.com/JeffHeyman.