80-year-old woman graduates with degree

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HOUSTON (CNN) — Beatrice Lillie walked the graduation stage this month, getting her associate’s degree diploma from Houston Community College in business management at 80 years old, surprising even herself.

“I would not have believed it I don’t think, although we can do all things through Christ who strengthens us, I don’t know,” Lillie said.

It was a friend who had gone to HCC who encouraged her.

“I told her I was going to be an example to my grands and great-grands because they told me ‘Big Momma you don’t know how it is,'” Merline Williams said. 

Beatrice enrolled, her grandchildren at her graduation (all in college themselves), and she inspired some other students in her classes.

“The young ladies were saying, ‘Oh my God, I know I can do it if you can do it,” Lillie said.

Another friend, Pastor Maceo Dillard Jr. who works with seniors like Lillie, encouraged her.

“Go for it,” Dillard said. “You can’t win if you never try.”

Lillie did, with her family cheering her on. The one person she wishes could have seen her getting her diploma — her mother.

“I think she really would have been proud,” Lillie said.

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