Christy Sizemore is a social worker and, currently, the bereavement coordinator for Hospice of the Upstate. At 53, she jumped back into school and is now pursuing her doctorate degree from Simmons University in Boston.
“I’ve been out of school for twenty-nine years,” she says. She went from undergrad to graduate school and completed her Master of Social Work in 1992. She admits there’s been a little bit of a learning curve. She had to relearn how to manage her time and how to study, but she’s thankful to be tackling the challenge now, instead of when her children were young. Her children are grown and self-sufficient, which frees up time for her to achieve her own goals.
Classes look a little different these days. Online classes didn’t exist in the early 1990s. Researching a topic in the library used to take up a whole afternoon. The ease of using a computer changed the ease of pursuing a degree.
“I believe we should continue to learn as we age. I would be a professional student if I could. It is challenging, but it is also fun,” states Sizemore. “I hope I never stop learning.”
According to 2022 Education Data, 0.02 percent of college students are 55 and older. It’s not a huge number, but it does show that some people are choosing education when their peers are planning retirement. Not only does it keep their brains active, it keeps them socially engaged and up-to-date on technology and social trends.
Marcia Mariel Catherine Barney Hunkeler, 68, graduated in 2016 with her second master’s degree. With her MLIS (Master of Library and Information Science) in archives and preservation, she immediately entered PACE (Program of Alternative Certification for Educators) to be able to become a school librarian. She is a media specialist/school librarian at Legacy Early College in Greenville.
“You know how folks always look back on what they wished they had done, wished they had gone to school for? Well, I decided either I could spend the rest of my life whining about my choices or I could actually make the choice and stop regretting and complaining,” Hunkeler says. “How I would spend the rest of my life was up to me, my responsibility and no one else’s.”
Her first master’s degree was in computer management and information resource. She fixed and built computers, wrote training manuals, designed databases, and created websites. Her bucket list is a roster of jobs. “I am doing what I wanted to do since I was small: to be a librarian at last,” she shares. Her next career? To work on archaeological digs and archive artifacts.
“Life is an education and continuing one’s education keeps you sharp,” Hunkeler says. “For me, ‘the journey is the destination’ is a huge part of why I love to go to school. Additionally, the old adage ‘Do what you love—the money will follow,’ has proved true. My income quadrupled, and I now have a retirement fund to allow me to do more. That is, if I ever do retire, for real.”
Did You Know?
South Carolina residents over 60 can attend classes for credit at any state-supported institution tuition-free.