85 Year Old ParaPro Shirley Graham Furthers Education & Sets Example for Students
Shirley Graham knew she could receive a higher salary if she had more education. So, she decided to attend Oconee Fall Line Technical College (OFTC) to further her education in the business program.
At eighty-five years old, she’s one class away from reaching her goal.
Increased Knowledge & Skills
Graham spent her career as a business manager, but in 2015, she began her second act as a paraprofessional for West Laurens High School working with special education students.
After learning about increased pay opportunities, Graham decided even she was not too old to go back to school.
“I am 85 years old, and I have never felt like I was too old to do anything,” she said. “The benefits of a college education are great, and there are opportunities available that make it affordable.”
“It gives me a feeling of pride to be able to say that I am going to college,” Graham added.
Having worked with some of her students to apply to college, Graham was familiar with OFTC. “Two of my children have a degree from OFTC, and several of my students attended OFTC when they graduated from high school, so I knew what was required to start back to school.”
But even though she had helped students get into college, choosing to go back to school herself was a big commitment.
“I was nervous when I decided to do it,” Graham said. “When I told my children, they asked me if I remembered how many years I had been out of school. But I knew that I had passed the GACE to get my certification to be a paraprofessional and that gave me confidence that I could get into and successfully complete college.”
Helping Students Thrive
While the benefit of additional pay is motivating, it’s not the only reason Graham values furthering her education. “It’s about the help I can give students,” she said. “They can look to me as an example and I can tell them ‘If I can do it, so can you.’”
And Graham is truly an example to others as she faces many common obstacles that might hinder someone from pursuing a higher education.
“I work a full-time job and have a family to take care of. I live in the country and my internet is extremely slow. My 16-year-old granddaughter lives with me. I don’t want anyone to think it’s okay to give up because it’s hard,” she said.
“I truly believe if I can do it, my students can do it, and anyone can do it,” Graham shared. “I have so enjoyed my classes at OFTC – the teachers are always willing to guide you through any problem, and the teachers at West Laurens High School have supported and encouraged me.”
“We are only promised one day at a time, and you’re never too old to find your dream,” she added. “It gives me great satisfaction to say that I’m going to OFTC!”