Laury Magnus, left, from Port Washington and instructor Denise DeFeo...

Laury Magnus, left, from Port Washington and instructor Denise DeFeo dance together at ballroom and Latin dance class at The Ballroom of Huntington. Credit: Morgan Campbell

Accidents and emergencies can happen in seconds without warning and being equipped with the skills to handle such situations when they arise can ultimately help save someone's life.

“Brain death comes in four minutes,” explains Erik Zalewski, the CEO of Have Dummy Will Travel, a health and safety training company that offers courses in CPR, first aid and active violence emergency response training (AVERT).

Zalewski, who's also a high school science teacher and paramedic, believes learning lifesaving skills are critical for people to know because emergencies occur without warning. “That’s the most important part of saving somebody else’s life, that first initial responder, because it takes minutes for medical responders to get a call, to get in the truck, get to the scene and start working. It’s going to buy somebody sometime until I can get there with advanced help,” he notes.

Setting goals that are achievable, impactful and can improve your life is one way to enter the new year. Other than learning a lifesaving skill, many people want to immerse themselves in different cultures, exercise or explore a new hobby to start the year off fresh. Some Long Island-based programs offer drop-in and semester-long classes that can be taken to conquer your goal. 

“In general, it can be harder to learn when you’re older, but it’s also dependent on the amount of effort you’re willing to put into it,” says Nancy Silver, 62, of Laurel Hollow.  Retired architect Silver volunteers at The Inn, a nonprofit that aids and serves those challenged by hunger and homelessness, and was inspired to learn another language to better communicate with others. 

Over the past few years, she has learned some Spanish vocabulary through community colleges and online classes but notes, “holding a conversation is a completely different set of words, and different way of speaking.”  Her search to go from Spanish learning to Spanish speaking took her to JP Language Institute, a learning center with classes held in Bay Shore, Garden City and Melville.

“As someone who’s retired, and on the younger end of retirement, it’s so important in my mind to continue to learn. It’s always good to keep your mind active, to expose yourself to new things. There’s satisfaction in learning something new,” Silver says. 

Here are valuable skills to learn in 2024 that can improve your life or save another:


JP Language Institute

25 Melville Park Rd., Melville; 2 W. Main St., Bay Shore and 1225 Franklin Ave., Garden City

Korean instructor Jung-Ah Paterson of Huntington, left, teaches student Tyler...

Korean instructor Jung-Ah Paterson of Huntington, left, teaches student Tyler Eliassof, 29, of Jericho, during a Korean language class at JP Language Institute on Dec. 2 in Melville. Credit: Debbie Egan-Chin

“Learning a new language isn’t just about new words or vocabulary, it’s about learning a whole new culture, a whole new perspective," says Omar Ramos, a teacher at JP Language Institute. “Certain words have different meanings and connotations in other languages. It helps you understand other people’s perspectives," he notes. Ramos speaks six languages and teaches English, Spanish and Portuguese. “I see students of all ages coming in, I’ve seen some as old as 70,” he says.

Ramos believes that linguistic learning adds to lives by opening unexpected doors. “People will often find things they love about other cultures, maybe new music or making friends they couldn’t have imagined making before. It’s like opening up a new world. It becomes a part of their life at some point,” he adds.

OFFERINGS Courses include English, French, Italian, Latin, German, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish, Arabic, Chinese, Japanese and Korean. All courses are conducted in person, in groups of  three to seven students; for ages seven and older.

COST The tuition for each section is $629, with an additional one-time registration fee of $65. Each section consists of eight, two-hour sessions once a week for eight weeks.

MORE INFO 631-888-3838,


The Ballroom of Huntington

508 New York Ave.

Instructor George Smith, left, and Judith Margolin from Melville dance...

Instructor George Smith, left, and Judith Margolin from Melville dance together at ballroom and latin dance class at The Ballroom of Huntington on Nov. 30. Credit: Morgan Campbell

“I wanted to try a new activity post-quarantine,” says Joe Louis-Jean, 28, of North Babylon. “I figured dance would be a skill I'd need for the future for weddings and social gatherings, so I decided to try it out.”

Louis-Jean chose Ballroom of Huntington as his place to pick up new moves, starting last January with Argentine Tango. “I don't have Argentinian roots, personally. My dance instructor recommended it for me initially because I had great posture, which is needed for Argentine Tango, and I liked the challenge of starting with a more difficult dance. After getting into it, I grew to love the flow of the dance,” he says.

Louis-Jean found benefits in exploring a new culture like meeting people with common interests and using the class as part of his workout routine.

 “Originally, I signed up for a couple months’ worth of lessons but I enjoyed my time so much that I've been sticking around,” he says. Louis-Jean has further dove into dance, trying and learning hustle, East Coast and West Coast swing, salsa, cha-cha, bachata, merengue, samba, rumba, Lindy Hop, bolero, the Viennese waltz and foxtrot.

OFFERINGS Group classes change monthly and sign-ups are required to participate. Classes are held Tuesdays at 7:30 p.m. and Thursdays at 8:15 p.m., with practice classes on Thursdays at 9 p.m. 

COST Classes are $25 each, sold in blocks of six or 10 lessons. Private lessons are also available.

MORE INFO 631-385-7271,


Have Dummy Will Travel

Participants don't need to have any medical experience to take these classes. “In terms of everyday life, people get hurt at home, at work. Having some first aid background can be very helpful, reducing the amount of mortality or morbidity in the end,” Zalewski says. 

The AVERT classes focus on how to escape or find cover and teach stop-the-bleed kinds of skills. 

The idea of someone’s heart stopping or being seriously injured is frightening, but Zalewski assures the learning experience won’t be daunting. “We make it fun because you’re not going to learn how to save a life if you don’t want to be there," he adds. The instructors simplify everything and include humor but also provide wide experience as all staffers are paramedics and EMTs.

OFFERINGS CPR classes are typically an hour or less, AVERT about three hours , first aid about three hours . All needed instructional materials are provided; programs are for ages 18 and older

COST Classes start at $250 for up to 10 people. Any certifications desired are an additional $35 per person.

MORE INFO 631-849-4978;


ESBOCES baking course

Milliken Technical Center: 375 Locust Ave., Oakdale

H.B. Ward Technical Center: 970 N. Griffing Ave., Riverhead

An instructor (left) with Eastern Suffolk Board of Cooperative Educational...

An instructor (left) with Eastern Suffolk Board of Cooperative Educational Services (ESBOCES), is pictured here teaching a baking course.

“All of my students are adults but the age and experience is very widely varied. I’ve had students from their early 20s to some whom are young grandparents to individuals in their 70s,” says Heather Boogertman, an Adult Education Chef Instructor at Eastern Suffolk Board of Cooperative Educational Services.

Boogertman teaches the Professional Baking class, which covers baking fundamentals and techniques plus a food handler certification.  The class isn't just for future professional bakers; Boogertman also has students who have enrolled because they enjoy baking. “They have a day job but they might be the designated family baker for all occasions, or they want to learn how to properly use measurements and weights, or they were always strong in cooking but would like to excel in baking as well,” she adds.

Students will also learn the difference between baking and cooking. “Baking is considered a science, as all of your ingredients need to be exactly right at the beginning and all of the ingredients have a role that correspond with each other," she notes. “When you cook, you can add a little more salt or a touch more herbs or spices at the end. You can’t do that with baking,” adds Boogertman. 

Learning a new skill like baking can also be a confidence booster. “You set out to create something that can be as beautiful as it is delicious. It can boost your esteem and mental health,” she says.

OFFERINGS Professional Baking course at ESBOCES: Milliken Technical Center in Oakdale (Feb. 26 through June 5) and H.B. Ward Technical Center in Riverhead (March 11 through June 24)

COST Courses are 25 classes over 100 hours; tuition is $2,135.

MORE INFO 631-289-2200,

The Cook's Studio

805 Broadway, Amityville; 3 Village Green Way, Patchogue

Learning to prepare meals and desserts can also be achieved in single session settings, which instead focus on creating a particular dish in just a couple of hours. The studio offers two-hour classes almost every day, with lessons on how to whip up a variety of dishes ranging in cultural origin and include pastas, sushi, sweets and entrees.

Cost Classes are $100 each ($95 plus booking fees) and can be reserved online.

More info 631-896-1315,


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