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An 80-year-old Los Angeles native is living proof that you’re never too old to go after your dreams. Donzella Washington recently graduated from Alabama A&M University and made history in the process by becoming the oldest person to ever earn a degree from the HBCU, the university reported.

For Washington—a social work major—her accomplishment was no easy feat. As a child, she had a speech impediment that depleted her confidence. It wasn’t until she was in her 30s that she decided to seek help and began taking speech classes at the College of the Sequoias in California. Washington and her husband resided on a farm in Pixley, California and fostered over 30 children; many of whom went on to have successful careers in law, education, and STEM. After her husband passed away, she relocated to Birmingham, Alabama to live with her daughter. It was then when she decided it was time to turn a new page in her life.

After learning about a satellite program that Alabama A&M University offered at Lawson State Community College in 2013, she decided to enroll. Fast forward six years later Washington graced the commencement stage on December 6 with over 400 other graduates; earning a degree in social work and graduating Magna Cum Laude with a 3.69 GPA. She says she used the years of encouragement from her late husband as motivation to earn her degree.

Washington’s family is beyond proud of her accomplishment. “I have seen her work tirelessly to achieve this dream and to finally be there to see her was a very proud moment,” her daughter Kimberly Washington told ABC News. Her academic journey isn’t over just yet. She plans on going back to school to earn her master’s degree. She also wants to travel to nursing homes throughout the country to inspire individuals to go back to school.


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