65-year-old Kentucky woman graduates college, 20 years after starting classes

Posted at 11:38 PM, Apr 15, 2021

OWINGSVILLE, Ky. (LEX 18) - Willie Mae Jones has been living using the motto, ‘If you can dream it, you can achieve it,” for the past 20 years.

The 65-year-old enrolled in community college courses in 1999. She paused her education for several years, but in 2011 began taking classes at Morehead State University.

She will be graduating next month with a degree in Early Childhood Education.

“I have achieved my dream,” Jones said.

Jones has been the director of the School Age Child Care program at Owingsville Elementary School for 30 years.

She’s been commuting between Bath and Rowan Counties for more than a decade to take one to two classes per semester.

“I found myself praying a lot. Like, ‘Why am I doing this?’ And it always got revealed to me that my understanding would come. So I'm just walking by faith and enjoying every minute of it,” Jones said.

Jones said her children also inspired her and pushed her every day to do better and never give up on herself.

“They always told me, ‘You can do it,’” she said.

But there were a lot of people in her life cheering Jones on throughout her journey.

“She is showing the world that no matter what you do if you set your heart to it, you can do amazing things,” said Dr. Sean Bailey, who is the principal at Owingsville Elementary School.

Years before sitting at the principal’s desk, Dr. Bailey sat in Jones’s classroom as one of her students.

“She’s made such an impact. She guided me in the right direction and was always encouraging me, telling me that I can do great things, and she expects great things,” Dr. Bailey said.

For the past few years, he’s been trying to repay her by encouraging her in her pursuit of a college degree.

“She didn’t get the degree to make more money. She got the degree because she wanted to be the best that she could be,” he said. “Miss Willie is a testament that says it’s never too late to go after your goals and go after your dreams.”

And with her college degree in hand come May, Jones said the future holds a wealth of possibilities.

This story originally reported by Sofia Millar on LEX18.com.