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Senior citizens make history this spring by getting their college degrees

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BATON ROUGE - An elderly man and woman from Louisiana are making history and showing others that it's never too late to achieve your goals by getting a college degree.

At 70 years old, Charlene Bourgeois is the oldest woman to graduate from LSU in the spring semester of 2023. 

"A lot of times I just tear up thinking about it because it's just something I've always wanted to do," Bourgeois said.

Bourgeois is a mother of five and works part time for the state after working full time for 43 years. She says she never pursued higher education because she didn't have the opportunity, but that changed when she took a trip to Europe.

"Seeing all these things and seeing about all of this history, I just had a thirst to know more. So, that's what happened and then I came back and I applied at LSU," she said. 

Bourgeois said she discovered Louisiana has a law that states anyone 55 and older can go to college for free, but she had a tough time finding a school that would honor it because funding wasn't allocated. However, after calling LSU, she was told the university would accept people 65 and older, free of cost. 

Although she was constantly surrounded by students young enough to be her grand children, she says they treated her "like one of them."

"I've never had a problem with the students. They were just caring and they welcomed me. I really felt like part of LSU," she said. 

Bourgeois says she will use her degree in her day-to-day life, and plans to travel to Greece to "follow in the footsteps" of Alexander the Great, whom she learned about from Professor Ross at LSU.

Another senior citizen making history, 85-year-old Kenneth Colona, who is the oldest man to graduate from Southeastern Louisiana University. 

The university released a statement Tuesday saying: 

“Mr. Colona is an inspiration to us all and proof that it is never too late to pursue your dreams. He is a prime example that anything is possible with hard work and perseverance. We should all aspire to be lifelong learners like Mr. Colona,” said Southeastern Louisiana University President John L. Crain.

Colona attended SELU in 1955, enrolling as a sociology major before leaving to join the Marines. After a long and varied career, even spending some time as a professional boxer, Colona returned to the university in the fall of 2010 at the age of 73.

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