Student breaks college stereotype at older age

by HANNAH NELSON//Staff Writer

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With a degree in chemistry and having already attended up to nine different colleges in his lifetime, Jim Mabarak is not a typical South Plains College student.

Originally from Michigan, Mabarak was married and has three sons, along with a few grandchildren.

Mabarak, who will be turning 78 in May, attends SPC solely for the fun of learning.

“I take courses just for enjoyment,” says Mabarak. “I don’t worry about grades. If I can audit the classes, I do, unless I feel that I need the pressure of a test.”

He doesn’t worry about the credits and doesn’t keep any of his diplomas.

“Some of them are like 50 years old, and I don’t really need them for anything,” says Mubarak.

Mabarak has attended many colleges through the years, including University of Dayton and the University of Michigan. He discovered SPC while listening to YouTube. He found an instructional video on how to play a song. When he looked up the instructor in the video, he found out that the instructor taught at SPC but had since retired. From there, Mabarak looked up the college.

“I checked out the tuition, and it was very low, even for out-of-state students,” says Mabarak. Another reason why Mabarak chose SPC is the weather.

“It was warmer than Michigan in the winter time,” he explains.

Mabarak attended SPC last spring semester as well to escape the winter weather in Michigan.

Most of Mabarak’s classes consist of music. He takes two guitar classes a week, bass lessons, and keyboard.

“I am really taking more classes than I should be, because I am a very slow learner,” Mabarak says. “But I still enjoy it, so I do it.”

After Mabarak finished school, he worked in Indiana with Western Electric as a chemist for 40 years. He has also worked with the Federal Government Navy Facility, managing hazardous waste.

He had taken music lessons while attending grade school and started taking lessons from a college while working in Indiana.

“I think if a person takes music, it’s kind of with them all their life,” says Mabarak.

He started taking piano lessons from an instructor who only takes on adults. However, while taking lessons, Mabarak discovered that his oldest son had some talent.

“I asked the instructor if he would listen to him, and if he would take him,” Mabarak says.

Now the oldest boy is a church choral director and his three children all play instruments.

“It’s a whole family thing,” says Mabarak. “It’s been passed down from generation to generation.”

In his free time, reading is one thing that Mabarak enjoys doing. Every time he goes to the SPC Library, he likes to check out the new books available. He has even been asked to leave the library while staying past closing time.

“I’ll tell my kids I was asked to leave the library, but I won’t tell them why,” Mabarak said with a laugh. “They will think grandpa is getting in a lot of trouble.”

One of Mabarak’s favorite past times is to sit in the cafeteria and talk with other students.

“The students will call me over and say, ‘Come on, sit over here,’ or they will come join me,” says Mabarak.

Mabarak says that he spends up to three hours a day sitting in the cafeteria during breakfast, lunch, and dinner, “just sitting, hanging out, even having a third or a fourth cup of coffee.”

[Photo by HANNAH NELSON/PLAINSMAN PRESS]

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