On Saturday, 89-year-old Ella Washington walked across the stage at Liberty University’s commencement as the oldest graduate in the Class of 2018, earning an associate degree in interdisciplinary studies.
Washington dropped out of school in sixth grade because she had to work on the family farm in rural North Carolina, but when she got married and had her twelve children, she wanted more for them.
“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,” Washington’s daughter Ellen Mitchell told WDBJ7.
At 49, Washington earned her GED diploma, and in 2012 she enrolled in Liberty’s online program after a recommendation from Mitchell.
But Washington isn’t stopping at her associate’s, as she is already working towards a bachelor’s degree in history.
“To me, history is a great subject,” Washington 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.”
Up until six years ago, Washington was still working at a variety of jobs to provide for her family. She never stopped taking care of her children even when finding job opportunities was difficult.
Mitchell is inspired by her mother everyday to be her best self for her and her children, “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 gave advice to her fellow graduates, “Education will help you make the best life for yourselves and those who come after you.”