07/24/05 — 76-year-old headed back to college

View Archive

76-year-old headed back to college

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on July 24, 2005 2:00 AM

Cleo Trigones will probably never be called conventional.

In 1988, she received her four-year degree in hospitality management from Florida International University. She was 58 years old.

Because of her age and medical insurance issues, she said, she could not get a job.

Moving to Goldsboro, she earned her real estate license at age 61 and said she did well at listing houses. Trials and tribulations of life intervened, she said, so she took a step back and did a lot of volunteer work.

She began working as a mentor at the Family Y and became a Foster Grandparent in 1995. She credits the program with saving her life, connecting her to peers and young people who have become a good support system.

"I'm getting so much learning pleasure out of it, with ladies I didn't know before," she said recently during a summer class offered for the Foster Grandparents at Wayne Community College.

It was not her first experience attending classes at the college. In 2001, at age 70, she received her early childhood education degree from there.

There is one more rung on the ladder she would like to climb, she said.

Music has been near and dear to her heart. She enjoys singing to the children at her church and acting, having most recently appeared in the stage version of "Wizard of Oz."

She said she has taken several music theory classes at Wayne Community but has a handful of courses toward completing her Associate of Fine Arts degree. Her goal is to finish what she has started.

But she admits to having grown discouraged about whether to pursue it. Short of funds, she had made several attempts to apply for a scholarship, to no avail.

"I have been kind of down lately," she said. "I almost gave up the thought of music, but I think God really wants me to do it."

When she recently stopped by the Foundation office at the college, she learned she would be receiving a $500 scholarship to attend classes in the fall.

"This brings tears to my eyes," she said, her voice breaking.

"Last semester, we did not get (the scholarship) and it's understandable because when I stop to think here are people that are donating to the Foundation that are 60 and over, that have made their plateau, and here I am 76 years old ... someone wanting for the first time in her life to complete something and I had chosen music.

"Why would they want to give it to a 76-year-old when I'm not going to use it for monetary reasons? I'm just using it for the glory of God."

She said that even though she may not consider herself the best student, "if I can learn an itsy-bitsy part of it, then I've learned a lot."

In the fall, she plans to take music theory and applied music. Beyond that, she hopes to keep hitting the high notes.

"I plan to keep on walking and praising the Lord, thankful that I'm able to get around," she said. "I guess I touch people in a funny sort of way; when they see me, they smile."