VANCLEAVE, MS (WLOX) - She's a family matriarch, a devout Christian, a world traveler, and on Thursday she graduated from Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College.
For Vancleave's Barbara Smith, graduation is about pomp and circumstance and perseverance. Barbara is getting her Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College diploma as the epitome of a non-traditional student at the seasoned age of 81.
"My mother died in April of 2010. So, I had no responsibility, and I wanted to go to college. So, I went," Smith said.
As you can imagine, the journey wasn't easy. But Barbara took a few classes at a time at the Jackson County Campus until she had enough credits to graduate.
"I was told when I was younger that I'm not good at reading, not good at spelling, not good at pronunciation. But I did it, and anyone can do it," she said. "It was really hard for me, but I learned how to type when I was younger."
For the Smith family, Barbara's graduation is a big deal. In fact, Barbara's daughter Sharon lives in South Carolina. She got up at 2:00 a.m. this morning and drove all night to get to the Coast for Barbara's graduation. Barbara's cousin is also here all the way from Utah.
"She's a great inspiration to all of us," said cousin Joan Brown.
That's why Barbara's family is all here and going all out to make this day extra special for the family's extra special matriarch.
"This college thing is a thing for her," said Barbara's daughter Shannon Smith. "I think she's always wanted to go to college. She's always encouraged us. Now, we encouraged her. She did a little bit at a time and passed her courses. We're all excited. She's excited."