Family Life

89-year-old amazes family by graduating college, and she's not stopping there

Ella Washington spent her life working and raising her 12 children. However the 89-year-old never gave up on her dream of going to college. 

Last Saturday, she walked across the stage at Liberty University's graduation ceremony- officially the oldest member of the 2018 class. 

Washington grew up in North Carolina in the 1930s. She left school at the age of 12 to work on her families farm, but always held a love of learning. 

“She has always been a lifelong learner,” her daughter Ellen Mitchell, told Liberty News. "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.”

After getting married and having children, Ella returned to education in 1978 to finish her high school education. Thanks to the encouragement of her children, she enrolled in an online college course with Liberty University. 

After earning her associates degree, she has no intention of stopping there. She plans to go on to do a bachelor's degree in history. 

“To me, history is a great subject,” Ella 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.”

As a young mother, Ella moved to Washington D.C, where she worked in a variety of jobs ranging from a janitor to an office assistant to a day nurse at an adult care facility. She was still working until six years ago. 

“Coming to D.C., there weren't many opportunities for a poorly educated black woman,” daughter Ellen explained. “But she worked hard doing whatever she could to make sure we were taken care of.”

She continued to say that her mother's drive to better herself through education was been an inspiration to her children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. 

“My mother is a remarkable woman,” Mitchell said. “I learned how to be strong because of her example. Now, she has set the bar for her grandchildren and great-grandchildren.”

Giving advice to her fellow classmates, Ella said to always follow opportunities to learn.  

“Education will help you make the best life for yourselves and those who come after you,” she said.

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