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Academy for Lifelong Learning Recognizes Outstanding Couple as Volunteers of the Year

Dick and Denese Schmelzkopf, residents of Spring, were recently honored as the Volunteers of the Year for Lone Star College-Montgomery’s Academy for Lifelong Learning, a learning organization for older, active adults. Pictured left to right are: Donna Smith Burns, ALL program manager, Denese Schmelzkopf, Dick Schmelzkopf, and Judi Bonds, ALL chairman.The Academy for Lifelong Learning (ALL) at Lone Star College-Montgomery recently honored an outstanding couple, Dick and Denese Schmelzkopf, with the organization’s 2009 Volunteer of the Year award. The Schmelzkopfs have provided more than six years of service to the organization. This is the second year that ALL, a learning organization for older, active adults, has issued this award.
“ALL is a volunteer-driven organization, and it couldn’t be managed without everyone who participates,” said Denese. “This award should really be going to everyone in ALL. We feel that it’s their award—we’re just the people whose names are on it this year.”
The Schmelzkopfs, who have been married for 40 years, bring to the organization a unique personal testimony along with a wealth of knowledge. In 1994, Dick suffered a traumatic brain injury that caused him to lose most of his ability to function normally. After years of cognitive therapy, Dick’s therapists had helped him make a remarkable recovery; however, according to Denese, he still wasn’t able to do many of the things that they had in mind for the rest of their life together.
Denese, a trained psychologist, decided to study the brain in order to learn more about how it works. This journey took her on a path of studying quantum physics and neurobiology, which ultimately, developed into more than ten years of full-time study on the brain. Through this, Denese has developed a methodology that has helped bring Dick to where he is today—a published author, public speaker, and major contributor in both their relationship and the community.
As ALL instructors, the Schmelzkopfs have been able to share their story and their wealth of knowledge with other ALL members in their class entitled, “Change Your Mind to Change Your Life/Overcoming Adversity.”
“The ALL program really brought us out of a period of solitude,” said Denese. “Studying got to be all that we were doing, but being a part of ALL really opened up a new world for us. The organization has changed our lives, and we have the good fortune to help other folks change their lives.”
In addition, the couple also teaches a course called “Star Seed Meditation,” which educates on a simple, yet effective method to meditate. Denese has also served on ALL’s board of directors since 2007.
Throughout the years, the Schmelzkopfs have been involved with several other volunteer organizations at churches, rehabilitation clinics, brain injury associations, Veteran’s associations, and more. When not preparing for their lectures, the couple enjoys spending time caring for their pets: a Great Pyrenees dog named Galahad, two cats named Indigo and Yoda, and their foster dog, a Giant Alaskan Malamute named Sofie.
“It’s so neat to look back on everything and see where we’ve come,” said Denese. “We give all of the credit to the ALL organization. We are where we are today because of it.”
While Dick, who brings a sense of wit to the relationship, agrees with ALL’s role in their current success, he’s more apt to praise his wife for where the couple is at today.
“The Center for Disease Control reports that over 80-percent of the significant others of brain injured folks leave their partners. Mine didn't,” said Dick. “Love is the strongest force in the universe.”
The ALL program offers older, active adults non-credit classes and social activities for continued intellectual and personal growth. For a small, annual membership fee, area residents have access to a variety of lectures, workshops, art, and computer classes, as well as trips to local destinations. Classes are taught or facilitated by a variety of individuals who represent a wide range of expertise and life experiences. These include current and former professors, subject matter experts, guest lecturers, and hobbyists.   Each of the five colleges within the Lone Star College System offer continuing education for their older, active adults through the ALL organization. Course offerings and program events vary with each campus.
For more information about the LSC-Montgomery’s Academy for Lifelong Learning, call (936) 273-7259 or visit www.lonestar.edu/all-montgomery.
LSC-Montgomery is located at 3200 College Park Drive, one-half mile west of Interstate 45, between Conroe and The Woodlands. For more information about the college, call (936) 273-7000, or visit www.LoneStar.edu/montgomery.
Lone Star College System consists of five colleges including LSC-CyFair, LSC-Kingwood, LSC-Montgomery, LSC-North Harris, and LSC-Tomball, six centers, LSC-University Center, LSC-University Park, Lone Star Corporate College, and LSC-Online. With more than 62,000 students in credit classes this spring, LSCS is the largest institution of higher education in the Houston area and third largest community college system in Texas. To learn more visit LoneStar.edu.