Barbara Smith, 81, of Vancleave has overcome innumerous obstacles along the path to her degree, but getting started late in life did not deter her.  Since the death of her husband and mother a few years ago, she has been determined to complete her degree, something she has wanted to do for most of her adult life.
 
“I’m very proud of what I’ve accomplished, and I can tell you that I never thought I would get here,” Smith said. “I just took a few classes at a time, and before I knew it, I was done and ready to graduate.”  
 
She participated in the commencement ceremony on May 10 at the Mississippi Coast Coliseum and was cheered on by her family members, including her sister, daughters and grandchildren.  Some traveled from Utah and South Carolina to see her cross the stage. 
 
“I’m just thrilled to be here, to have my family here and to have completed this goal,” she said. “Taking things like math and biology was very different for me, but I figured it out and ended up with great grades. The instructors at the college are just top notch and helped me all the way through.”

“I’m very proud of what I’ve accomplished, and I can tell you that I never thought I would get here…”

 
Starting out slowly, with only one class her first semester, Smith completed her last semester this May with three classes, including yoga.  “I won’t tell you that I could do all of the moves in yoga, but I did what I could and enjoyed it.”  She added, “We have to keep moving, keep exercising at any age.  Exercising the body and mind are equally important.”
 
Encouraging other students to persevere in their educational goals, Smith arrived at campus with a smile and positive attitude every day.  “Mrs. Barbara is just a tremendous lady,” said Sheila Lowery, enrollment specialist and VA certifying officer at MGCCC’s Jackson County Campus.  “From the very first day she came into my office wanting to take college classes, she has been a role model for our students and, really, just everyone on our campus.  She has so much energy, enthusiasm and courage for learning new things and discovering her potential.”
 
Smith said she plans to continue with her education but doesn’t plan to commit to a particular major. “You will see me back for a few classes, that’s for sure. I just enjoy a lot of different kind of things, so I just want to explore my options and keep learning.”

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