97-Year-Old Woman Graduates High School

(StraightNews.org) – A 97-year-old Utah woman has graduated from high school. Kathryn Cole left school in 1940 after her grandfather died, and she decided to drop out and care for her family. She told reporters her finals were on the same day as her grandpa’s funeral. Ms. Cole never gave up, however, and said graduating high school was something she wanted her whole life, adding, “It’s never too late to keep learning.”

Cole’s granddaughter Shanea Bingham said her grandma always taught her the value of education and encouraged her to read. The 97-year-old is an avid reader and helps local students improve their skills, reading with them several nights per week.

When she dropped out in 1940, Cole was only an English credit short of graduating, and officials at Tabiona Public School in Hanna, Utah, determined that she had helped so many kids with their reading that she had more than earned that final credit. The School District recognized Ms. Cole as a graduate this year and gave her a diploma at the Tabiona graduation ceremony in front of a cheering crowd.

The Utah native is one of the oldest ever to graduate high school in America, but not the oldest, or even the oldest this year. In February, Fred Allen Smalls gained an honorary diploma at Georgetown High School in South Carolina at age 106. His granddaughter Birdella Kinney worked for over a year to prepare the ceremony, which included Georgetown Mayor Carol Jayroe and District Superintendent Keith Price as speakers. More than 100 people attended.

Born in 1918 in Plantersville in Georgetown County, Smalls moved to Washington, DC, during his eighth-grade year to work and help support his family. He was among several centenarians featured in a media article documenting black Americans living to a ripe old age. Among them was TikTok star Mason Byrd, whose 100th birthday celebration went viral as viewers were stunned by her age. Most guessed she was “around 70.”

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