Bendable’s learning opportunities reach across many interests, skill levels and even generations. Myra Byrd is a mother of three and grandmother of three, who uses the lifelong learning platform to find free resources and events for her family to attend. In addition, she herself is looking to Bendable to become certified as a teacher after putting her path to higher education on pause. “Thanks to Bendable, I can turn a negative into a positive,” Myra said.
Gaining a college degree doesn’t always leave you ready to move forward in life. Sometimes it takes having the right tool to help you focus on the right things. Bendable is that tool for Adam Debeck, student success advisor at Holy Cross College. He refers his students to the platform to help them lean into their interests, gain credentials to further their goals and become job-ready. “Our students use Bendable as a way to make better decisions about their future,” Adam said.
In her role as the lacrosse coach at Saint Mary’s College, Amy Long preaches to her players that there is one key to flourishing not only on the field but in life: curiosity. Now, she’s setting her own example through Bendable. She is using the lifelong learning platform to explore meal planning for her family, financial literacy and leadership. “It’s about finding ways to grow,” Amy said. “Bendable is such a great resource.”
Personal well-being doesn’t come easily, especially when you’re juggling a full-time job and kids. So Nikki Morris sought out happiness through Bendable. The mother of two, who is a pricing coordinator at Elkhart Plastics, participated in a learning circle at the St. Joseph County Public Library that met weekly to work through the edX course “Pathways to Happiness,” offered for free through Bendable. During it, she found ways to act more intentionally, better understand her children’s emotions and be grateful for life. “This opportunity was an eye-opener,” Nikki said.
Viri Zamarripa has always cared for children, whether through working at a daycare center or raising six kids of her own, one of whom has autism. Now, with the help of a program from the United Way of St. Joseph County, the library and Bendable, her goal is to offer even better care for children with special needs. To that end, she is working toward her child development associate credential. The curriculum consists of courses in communication skills, child development training and problem-solving. “Bendable is awesome,” Viri said. “I love that you can manage your own time.”
More than 18,000 local residents have visited Bendable since it launched two years ago. But the number sinks when it comes to those who go on to complete a course. That’s why the Bendable team is forming a Depth of Learning Committee with our closest partners, including Goodwill and United Way. Our aim is to determine how to better support users so they persist in their learning. “The ultimate goal,” said Fred Teague, Bendable’s lifelong learning manager, “is to put people in a position for better-paying jobs and other real improvements in their life.”
After the hard work it took to overcome her own struggles with addiction, Darlene Nivens is dedicated to showing up for others in the same position. And she isn’t doing it alone, thanks to Bendable. Now six years sober, she is an addiction counselor at Victory Clinical Services in South Bend, where she points her clients toward Bendable to learn about resume writing, self care, preparing to go back to school and more. “I wish I had known about this,” Darlene said. “There’s so much on here to help people.”
Whether for work or just plain fun, for Chista Kermabati, the best way to learn is for free. Thanks to Bendable, she’s doing just that. The South Bend resident is using the lifelong learning platform to access edX courses—at no charge—through the library. She’s started with classes on data visualization and agriculture to supplement her background in international development. Up next in her Bendable queue is the fun: poetry and literature. “Those courses are expensive, so I see how this is useful for many” patrons, Chista said. “I really love this resource.”
Joanne Kelley Cogdell started her company last year, envisioning a South Bend community that could support one another through the opioid crisis. Since the launch of Naxos Neighbors, Bendable has guided her closer to that vision. She’s using the lifelong learning platform as a jumping-off point to host a series of trainings at the St. Joseph County Public Library. Her learning playlist of resources on the topic, featured above, inspired dozens of people to attend the events. “There’s no way we could get that engagement and interest in this topic without Bendable’s help,” Joanne said.
Although Edward Basker died in 1972, his art can be seen all around South Bend. A selection of his best-known pieces—mostly watercolors—will be on view at the St. Joseph County Public Library for the next two months, but it won’t end there. The community can also tap a new Bendable resource. (Just go to “Explore” and search “Basker.”) “It’s a unique experience to be able to cement his name into a source where people can continue to learn about him,” said Jared Basker, Edward’s grandnephew, who organized the exhibit. “People will be able to keep his legacy alive.”