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89-Year-Old Grandmother Earns College Degree After Dropping Out of School Decades Ago

(photo via: CREDIT: AARP/ Ellen Mitchell)

A North Carolina mother never gave up on her education and graduated with her associate degree in interdisciplinary studies from Liberty University on Saturday.

Ella Washington,89, grew up working on a farm in the 1930’s and dropped out of school in the sixth grade to help her family. However, that decision never stopped her from wanting to continue her education.

The college graduate told Liberty News it was important to obtain her education because she wanted the best for her children.

Washington’s daughter Ellen Mitchell told the news source, “She has always been a lifelong learner… Her desire for learning and for pursuing an education became a family tradition. She taught all of her children how to read, write, and do math prior to their beginning school, just as her grandmother taught her and her siblings.”

The mother of 12 worked full-time as a custodian at the Pentagon in D.C. and as a certified nursing assistant to provide for all of her children.

“Coming to D.C., there weren’t many opportunities for a poorly educated black woman,” Mitchell added. “But she worked hard doing whatever she could to make sure we were taken care of.”

The 89-year-old’s daughter encouraged her to enroll in Liberty University’s online program. Washington had previously earned her GED in 1978 at age 49.

“Liberty is a great university… I would recommend Liberty to anyone because I did well,” the graduate said.

Receiving an associates degree is only the beginning for Washington, she plans on getting her Bachelor’s degree in history from Liberty.

“To me, history is a great subject,” the mother of 12 said. “Everybody should know their history and learn more about it. A lot of people don’t know much about history. There’s nothing wrong with learning more.”

Mitchell said her mother has always reinforced education as a priority in their family and added, “My mother is a remarkable woman… I learned how to be strong because of her example. Now, she has set the bar for her grandchildren and great-grandchildren.”

Washington had one last piece of advice to other fellow graduates like herself, “Education will help you make the best life for yourselves and those who come after you.”

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