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Florida Grandmother Graduates College at 96 Years Old, Reportedly the Oldest Black Woman to Earn a Degree

A South Florida woman shy of 100 years old is being celebrated as the oldest Black woman to graduate from college in the U.S.

Violet Edwards, 96, is the fifth-oldest person in the world to receive a college degree. She broke the record at Mercy College in New York on June 25, graduating with an associate’s degree and 4.0 GPA, all while fighting cancer, according to reports.

Violet Edwards receives a proclamation from the Jamaican Consulate General for her academic achievement. (YouTube/Bark Di Trute)

Edwards said she wanted to finish the degree she started decades ago before her 100th birthday. Financial roadblocks stalled her past attempts to earn a degree, and a hurdle even impaired her current attempt, but a determined Edwards pressed on, reports show.

Born on October 25, 1925, in Jamaica, education was always pivotal in Edwards’ life. She was the first person in her village to attend her high school on a full academic scholarship. She took her final exams for graduation during World Word II when she feared the test would not make it back and forth to England, where it had to be sent for grading, according to reports.

However, Edwards did not have the money to pay for higher education, so she began a career in the island’s postal service. She made history there as the first appointed female regional inspector before retiring and moving to New York in 1973, according to reports.

Edwards then changed her focus to helping her daughter through medical school. After her daughter Christine started her medical career, Edwards decided to enroll in the College of New Rochelle in the early 1980s but stopped one year before completing her bachelor’s degree because of financial challenges, according to reports. She spent several years after that helping her daughter build her private practice and caring for her grandchildren.

Christine is now the medical director for Florida Perinatal Center, LLC.

Upon deciding to return to the College of New Rochelle, Edwards discovered the school had been closed. Mercy College in New York had taken over the New Rochelle’s records, but 84 of Edwards’ credits were nontransferable. So she opted to complete her associate’s in science online, reports show.

Edward was diagnosed with cancer in her last year of college, according to reports. She underwent surgery and had her final radiation treatment on July 5. Reports show that she graduated from Mercy College last month and is now also the oldest person in Florida to achieve the goal.

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