By EARL RAY TOMBLIN

CHARLESTON -- As a former teacher, I am a strong supporter for continuing education.

Whether it is to further your professional life or explore a personal interest or passion, there is always opportunity for learning and growth. Because life continues to present us with new challenges, we never really stop the learning process.

And, it is because of those very challenges that we must embrace new paths to solutions and success. Lifelong learning can also provide us with tremendous satisfaction when we recognize the array of opportunities to learn and make the practice of learning a part of our everyday lives. It's easier than you think and the benefits are immense.

Part of the enjoyment of lifelong learning is your ability to choose a particular path of your liking and the direction you want to go. There are ample resources and locations you can choose from if you wish to expand your professional expertise. You could explore everything from obtaining an additional degree to sharping your understanding of a subject by learning about new discoveries and developments.

If you feel a pull toward the creative, cultural or historic aspects of our state, your life-long learning journey has several potential starting points that can offer you an exceptional perspective on the Mountain State. Places like West Virginia Independence Hall in Wheeling, Grave Creek Mound Archeological Complex in Moundsville, Museum in the Park in Logan or the Culture Center in Charleston, offer endless possibilities for exploration and discovery.

There are also other venues such as our public libraries for example that offer opportunities for learning everything from how to paint and draw landscapes or other subjects to the craft of creative writing. There are also a number of events scheduled around the state and throughout the year that help you learn and explore the richness of our state's arts, history and cultural heritage.

We know the importance of a solid education which is the foundation for building a secure life. However, we also know that life-long learning is ageless, limitless and always diverse. Opportunities abound to choose a path and explore it. You can never tell what may spark your curiosity and launch you on a path of discovery, knowledge and greater understanding of the world in which we live.

This year, may we be reminded that lifelong learning is a great journey and one that often becomes richer when shared with others. Whether you are 80 or 8, the opportunities for learning are as close as your computer or right outside your door.

Tomblin is governor of West Virginia.

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