Coast Great-Grandmother Eager To Earn GED

Viola Batia may look a bit out of place at Ocean Springs High. After all, it's not everyday you find an 89-year old great-grandmother in school.

"I told my daughter the first day I started, I said I'm like a first grader. I said I'm going to quit school. This is too hard. She said mother, you never let us quit," Viola Batia said.

Viola dropped out of school at the age of 13. That was 1928. Times were tough then during the Depression.

"A year later, my mother died, and then another year later, my dad died. So we had 3 little sisters that were without parents. So my brother and I decided we'd take care of them."

Then came marriage and four children of her own. Viola had no time for school. When her husband passed away a few years ago, regrets of never finishing school haunted Viola. That's when her daughter suggested the GED program.

"My sixth grader told me she's doing decimals, and subtractions, and I said good, you can help granny. That's what I'm working on. That's my granddaughter I'm talking about."

Terry Williams is Viola's GED instructor.

"We have so many students that say they're too old to come to class. They've been out of school for ten to 20 years. I don't believe anybody's been out for 75-80 years like Ms Viola has. She's excellent. She really works hard. She has the motivation to learn and that's the key."

She's become an inspiration in the classroom and at home.

"I had 4 children, and 3 of them are teachers. Then I have 13 grandchildren and 9 of them have college degrees, some have masters."

Now, it's Viola's turn to strive for her goal -- a high school diploma.

"It's personal satisfaction. Plus, my children would be very proud, because they know mother doesn't quit. I think they'd be very happy."

Viola can take her GED after finishing 50 hours of class. Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College offers day and evening GED classes at Ocean Springs High School. The program is free. To sign up, you can call 497-7755 or 897-3810.