05/06/05 — Grandmother among graduates

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Grandmother among graduates

By Bonnie Edwards
Published in News on May 6, 2005 1:50 PM

Rosa Towner has 17 grandchildren and a great-granddaughter.

On Thursday night, she became a high school graduate.

And she did not just get her diploma, either. She was valedictorian at ... well, she won't admit to exactly how many candles were on her last birthday cake.

She is old enough to know, now, that a dream is something you don't give up on, even if you have to wait 40 years.

"Never let your dreams die. Sometimes, they are the only thing that you have," she told her fellow Wayne Community College high school program graduates Thursday night. "Don't let them go. Keep them safe. Keep reaching for your goals, no matter where they lead you. Keep striving and never, ever give up."

Ninety-eight students re-ceived their diplomas at the ceremony, which was moved indoors to First Assembly of God when rain hit. Another 235 completed their General Education Development (GED) requirements.

For Ms. Towner, Thursday was the culmination of a whole lot of believing in herself.

"Look at me," she told the audience. "I never let go of the dream that someday I would walk across a stage and receive my high school diploma. And here I am. Live your dreams, and bless each day that God brings to you."

She wasn't sure what the future would bring 40 years ago when she quit school just as she was starting the eighth grade.

Then, she married and raised six children. She could have gone back to school then, but who would watch the children?

"School wasn't a priority years ago," she said.

After the children started leaving home, she worked some. Then, there were grandchildren to help raise.

She said it wasn't easy starting over after being out of school 40 years.

"I always wanted to go back to school," she said. "When I came here I thought I was too old."

But she met the students. They helped her, encouraged her, inspired her.

She said it was a pleasure attending Wayne Community College because everyone she met was understanding and kind. "Some mornings I didn't feel good when I came in here. The students would come take my bags for me when I got off the bus."

Today, she is not just a student, but a friend to many young people, some the same ages as her grandchildren.

As she picked up her cap and gown before the ceremony Thursday, a student came up to her and kissed her on the cheek. About 10 minutes later, another came over and gave her a hug.

"The young people respect me so well," she said. "They treat me real nice, all of them. They're like my children, and I love them dearly."

Ms. Rosa cried when she found out she would graduate. It was something she always wanted.

She didn't expect to do as well as she did, and she didn't realize how well she had done until staff members came up to her and congratulated her.

"This has been the most pleasurable time in my life going to Wayne Community," said Ms. Rosa. "I'm just so thankful God let me come out here and meet such lovely people. We're like a big happy family out here at Wayne Community College."

Thursday was not the end of her education. Now, she is tackling a two-year degree in business administration.

"I want to keep on going, with the grace of God," she said. "It's been a treat. I wouldn't want to miss this journey for anything."

She is proud first of her diploma, but she is even prouder of what she might have inspired in others.

"Now my grandchildren can look back and say, 'After 40 years she did it. Anybody can do it.' No matter what age you are, go back to school and accomplish your goals. It's never too late, never. Look at me today. It was 40 years late, but it's here."