diplomas eluded Roberta Torres for most of her life. Her parents
gave her away to be married after the 10th grade and then she raised
mom gave me away, the old Indian way. I was mad at her, said
Torres, of Phoenix, Arizona. Still, the San Carlos Apache elder,
was determined to first obtain her high school diploma and then
a college degree. The high school diploma came at the age of 30.
39 years later at the age of 70, when most of her peers were retiring,
Torres received a junior college degree in criminal justice. She
may be the first in her tribe at this age to do so.
was always my dream to get a college degree and work in the juvenile
probation field, said the recent graduate as she talked about
her higher education journey that began online at the University
of Phoenix in October of 2008.
was no contact with the instructor. It involved lots of research.
They say three to four hours of work [at night], but its more
than that. After work, full-time with CPS [Child Protective Services],
I would come home and do my homework. Sometimes I was up until midnight,
said Torres, who has since left her job to concentrate on being
a full-time college student at the University of Phoenix.
raising her family, Torres worked various jobs, but it was her job
as an assistant with a Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) investigator
that sparked her interest in criminal justice.
times] I served as an interpreter for the police department,
Torres said. Still, she didnt act on pursuing her dream until
after her children were grown and had children of their own.
fact, Torres didnt enroll in college until great-grandchildren
starting coming along. Currently, she is the sole person in her
family attending college, although she is constantly encouraging
her children and grandchildren to go back to school. I tell
them you can better yourself. If grandma can do it, you can do it
too, said Torres.
did well with the research classes but Torres did not look forward
to taking math, which is not her best subject. She turned to her
teenage grandson, who lives 120 miles away on the San Carlos Apache
Reservation, for help. My grandson Tim was my tutor in math.
He did it by phone and on the computer. Hes good at math and
hes only 16. Im giving him a certificate too,
said Torres, who graduated with a 3.4 GPA.
through math and the late nights didnt deter this senior citizen.
In fact, shes already taken six classes toward a four-year
degree in Criminal Justice and Human Services. I enjoy it.
My kids tell me you seem to be happy going to school. My daughter
says you need to go back to school if thats what keeps you
going, Torres said.
top of being a full-time student, she works out at the gym three
times a week. The former diabetic says she overcame the disease
with diet and exercise.
published in USA Today show that Torres is among 12 million people
in the U.S. who are considered non-traditional students attending
college above the age of 30. Thats about 29 percent of all
higher education students. Many colleges offer discounted fees or
grants and scholarships to senior citizens.
students willing to volunteer doing community service can also earn
money for college. The Edward M. Kennedy Serve America Act allows
those 55 and older who have volunteered 350 hours to apply for an
education award of up to $1,000. The volunteer may use it for his
or her own education or it can be transferred to a child, foster
child or grandchild. Many colleges also offer free tuition on an
audit basis, meaning seniors or retirees can attend lectures without
doing the homework or taking exams but no college credit is earned.
The University of Phoenix allows anyone to attend lectures but audit
students are required to pay one credit hour of tuition.
paid for all her classes. The San Carlos Apache Tribe offers assistance
to college students but not to those taking online classes. I
did this all on my own. An online class is harder than in the classroom,
they should realize that, she said. After years of trying,
Torres is finally receiving financial assistance and is an on-campus
student at the University of Phoenix Hohokam campus. She hopes her
degree will land her a job as a juvenile counselor or juvenile probation
she may not reach the ranks of her son Tim Johnson Sr., who has
a doctoral degree in theology, she is forging ahead to show the
world anyone can succeed in school.
never ends. Theres always hope. Its up to you,