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71-Year-Old Great-Grandmother Graduates from Ashford University

Savannah Jones

Savannah Jones, 71, joins cyberspace classmates from across the country to participate in traditional commencement ceremonies at the Ashford University campus in Clinton, Iowa on April 29, 2012.

She'll don iconic academic regalia, march to the "Pomp and Circumstance" and receive her diploma, earning a bachelor's degree in social science with a specialization in education. After graduation, she plans to advocate adult literacy.

"I began my Ashford University academic journey in 2009 after being out of school for 25 or 30 years," Jones said. "The experience has been challenging and incredibly rewarding. Through it all, my family has been very supportive and encouraging.”

Jones, who will celebrate her 50th wedding anniversary later this year, has five living children, 19 grandchildren, six great-grandchildren, plus two more great-grandchildren on the way. She was inspired by her mother to pursue her higher education aspiration. "Mother dropped out of high school. At age 63, she took home study courses and earned a diploma. I always told myself ‘if mother could do it, you can do it.' Mother always knew best."

While Jones and her grandchildren are generations apart, technology and learning creates a bond and brings them closer to one another. "I'm a techie and keep up with the grandkids through texts and Facebook," she said.

Two of Jones’ grandchildren are college students themselves. Raised within a family that values education, one of her grandsons delighted her with textbooks as a gift.

"My grandkids and I have the most wonderful conversations," Jones said. "They ask me where I get these words. I tell them it's because I have a college education and when they have a college education, they'll have a vivid vocabulary too."

Jones took online classes on the road while traveling on behalf of her church. "Online learning was perfect for me; however, regardless of whether it's online or in a traditional university setting, you have to be self-motivated and determined. Otherwise, it's a waste. There were times I would have to tell my husband, 'honey, I'm studying and have to stay focused."

Dr. Alice Vestergaard, professor and lead faculty in the Ashford University College of Health, Human Service, and Science, who specializes in the study of aging, said, "Jones' degree pursuit provided some of the best 'brain candy' imaginable and serves as an example that we are never too old to learn. By pursuing a degree at an older age, she actually grew new neurons – brain cells.

"Regular class attendance gave her brain a 'neurobics' workout. This, coupled with the social interaction she received in the online classroom, provided additional opportunity for neuron stimulation and growth. Being exposed to new concepts and ideas, then applying the information in class discussions and assignments actively fired up her brain cells. Learning is considered a brain health-promoting endeavor."

In closing, Jones said, "I love learning and am very excited about traveling to the Ashford University campus for graduation. The Lord has blessed me with a wonderful life."

About Ashford University
Ashford University is defining the modern college experience by combining the heritage of a traditional campus with the flexibility and effectiveness of online learning. Ashford University is accredited by The Higher Learning Commission and a member of the North Central Association. The university offers associate's, bachelor's and master's degree programs online as well as bachelor’s degree programs at its Clinton, Iowa, campus. For more information, please visit www.ashford.edu .

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