80-year-old woman graduates from HBCU with a 3.69 GPA

Donzella Washington JEROME SAINTJONES/AAMU PHOTO

80-year-old Donzella Washington achieved her late husband’s dreams for her to get her college degree. Along the way she makes history.

She became AAMU in Huntsville, Ala, oldest person to in history to graduate with her degree in social work.

Washington stuttered most of her life which deflated her confidence. She took speech classes in her 30’s and overcame the speech impediment. Although she spent over close to 20 years working at a local bank, she wanted more.

“When I began this journey it was just because I wanted to go back to school, it was something I wanted to accomplish,” Washington said in a published interview. “So at this moment it’s just overwhelming you know, the attention.”

Her husband encouraged her to get her college degree while working at the bank. After her husband died, Washington moved to a Birmingham, Ala. suburb to take a few classes at nearby historically Black Lawson State Community College campus in downtown Birmingham. The two-year school had a satellite program that AAMU operated.

A few classes turned into getting a scholarship to AAMU and obtaining her Bachelor’s degree in social work.

“I want to inspire young people and even adults, to let them know that age, because I’m 80, but I don’t know what 80 really feels like,” said Washington. “It’s never too late. You have a dream, please finish that dream. You can do it. You just have to believe in yourself.”

On graduation day, Washington’s daughter Kimberly was by her side to watch her mother walk across the stage, even helping her with her cap and gown.

“She is such a great example of commitment and strength and perseverance and dedication and compassion and passion, she exhibits all that,” said Kimberly. “That’s what I learned most is to really show love and appreciation and have fun with those that you love the most.”

Washington says she might not be done yet and her age isn’t stopping her. She’s considering continuing her education and obtaining her Master’s degree.

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