One University of Houston-Victoria student hopes to complete next year the degree she began in 1958.
Gloria Candelaria, 69, is a junior majoring in communications in the School of Arts & Sciences.
She''s taken classes on and off since high school, but she’s never quite been able to finish a degree plan for various reasons.
"Marriage, five children, job, money, divorce, death,” she said, listing the things that came up to keep her from getting a degree.
While she originally hoped to get a Bachelor of Business Administration, she now hopes to use her degree to help in what has become her life’s pursuit: history and genealogy.
"Genealogy is my specialty. I''ve dedicated my life to researching and documenting the contributions of Hispanics to Texas," she said.
Genealogy builds a skeleton of a person from records and other data, she said. "History is where you take the information from the historical records and clothe that person."
Too often, history is written from just one perspective and leaves a whole other side of the tale untold, she said. This has often been the case with the Hispanic story in Texas. Many of the victors who wrote history have negative views of people of Mexican descent. This has led to an unnecessary separation in the state’s population that persists to this day, she said.
The way to change that is by educating people about the full breadth of history.
"The way you look at things changes when you change the way you look at things,” she said, reciting her favorite quote.
Candelaria has taught classes, lectured on the topic across the country, and even written seven books on the subject. But her UHV degree will help add something special to her efforts, she said.
The leadership of the School of Arts & Sciences agrees.
"Education can empower anyone at any point in life," Dean Jeffrey Di Leo said. "Ms. Candelaria is walking, talking proof of that. I hope we see a lot more students like her."
A provision in state law can help seniors take college courses. Anyone 65 or older can take up to six credit hours tuition free each semester, as long as there is space in the classes. Those who take advantage of the program still have to pay related fees.
"That''s really easy on my Social Security income," Candelaria said. Any additional classes are paid for normally, according to state law.
Candelaria encouraged other senior citizens to take advantage of the law to expand their horizons. Higher education is a great way to socialize and stay physically and mentally active, she noted.
After finishing her bachelor’s degree, Candelaria plans to get her master’s degree in Texas history.
"One of these days, I''m going to get a Ph.D.; I don’t know in what," she said.
Slowing down doesn''t fit into her plans, she said.
"What am I going to do? Stay home and knit?"
For more information about becoming a UHV student, call Student Solutions at 361-573-0000.