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What I Really Know

About Graduation and the Value of Lifelong Learning

Graduating is the fulfillment of a dream at 16 or 60

One might wonder what a dropout really knows about graduation. In 1963, I had no choice but to leave college to have my daughter. Thoughts of earning a degree and embarking upon a career were over.

See also: Enjoy an encore career after retirement.

It's never too late to earn a degree. — Jack Hutcheson

Ten years later, when my two children were older, I returned, and I never stopped again. Graduation in 1975 meant a career in education and the opportunity to earn a living for my family. It made me feel valuable. Don't misunderstand. My life as a wife and mother was very fulfilling, but I always feared the possibility of a sick husband and my inability to contribute financially.

Two years later, I graduated again, with a master's and the opportunity to receive salary increases. I now had an insatiable thirst for learning. I returned to receive a professional diploma in 1999. I still wasn't finished. At 57, I set out to earn a doctorate in education. This was my fifth decade in college, and it was a formidable challenge for a senior citizen. At 64, I defended my dissertation and graduated from college for the fourth time. Graduation is the fulfillment of a dream whether you are 16 or 60. However, the young graduate looks forward to what will be while the older graduate sees the importance of today.

My graduation was a testament to my ability to use my mind and persevere. I cannot think of anything more valuable to ward off old age than being a lifelong learner.

Barbara Salvione is a reader from Staten Island, N.Y.

Tell us what you really know about 9/11. Email your essay of up to 400 words to whatiknow@aarp.org. Or mail it to "What I Really Know," AARP Bulletin, 601 E St. NW, Washington, DC 20049. Please include your name and a phone number or email address.

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