Claire Savage

Worth the Wait: 71-Year-Old Grandmother Graduates from DC High School

“I did it! I did it!” Lula Thomas said, hugging each school administrator as she walked across the stage.

A 71-year-old grandmother walked across a graduation stage Friday with a huge smile on her face.

Lula Thomas of Northeast D.C. raised her diploma high. “I got it!” she said.

Thomas graduated from the Goodwill Excel Center, a tuition-free D.C. charter school for adults.

She had dropped out of school in the seventh grade to work on a farm and support her family nearly six decades ago. Still, she said she wanted to learn more.

“It was something inside of me making me go back to the school,” Thomas said.

Going back to school wasn’t easy, though. Thomas admitted it was tough learning next to her much younger classmates, especially since she was old enough to be their grandmother.

“Sitting in the classroom with young people, it [does] kind of get to you a little bit because I’m not up on that level with them,” Thomas said.


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But she didn’t give up. Thomas went to class every day and asked teachers for help in her free time.

“I’m just in the books all of the time to make sure that I get this, because I was determined that I was going to get this,” Thomas said.

And she did.

Thomas received her high school diploma from the center on Friday. Her children and grandchildren came to support her during her special moment.

Now that she has her diploma, Thomas said she hopes to visit classrooms throughout the District to share her story and inspire students.

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