File this under “never give up, never give in.” Darlene Pitts, a Virginian mother of 5 and grandmother of 12, has earned a bachelor’s degree from Norfolk State University at the age of 57.

Her path wasn’t an easy one, but by all accounts, she was determined. It started with a comment from her manager at Kroger’s grocery store in 2007.

“Is this what you want your grandchildren to see you doing? Working two jobs?” he asked.

Her answer was no.

Back in 2011 The Virginian Pilot profiled Pitts struggle to get her Associates Degree.

There were days when she wanted to give up.

Like the day she was diagnosed with a learning disability, or the days she had to miss class for rotator cuff surgery. Or any of the cold nights when the bus brought her home late, and she knew she’d have to get up at 5 a.m. to finish her homework before catching yet another bus to work.

But Darlene Pitts is no quitter. And that’s why, at 52 years old, this mother of five and grandmother of eight will be handed her associate degree at Tidewater Community College’s 53rd graduation Friday night.

With her AA degree in hand she pushed forward, enrolling in Norfolk University, where more challenges emerged.

During the course of the program, Pitts, who was working two jobs, was placed on academic probation. At one point, she wasn’t sure if she’d be able to complete the coursework.

“I came to work in tears because I got a letter saying I was on academic probation,” Pitts told The Virginia-Pilot. “Some of the classes, they were really rough. I was ready to throw in the towel. I just wanted to call it quits, but I just hung in there.”

But instead of giving up, Pitts quit her job at a Kroger grocery store and focused on her schoolwork and her job as a special education teaching assistant at a local high school. She started working with a tutor, too.

“It was a rough four years,” Pitts said. “But I still hung in there.”

dpitsPitts is graduating today. She’s a step closer to her dream (she wants a Masters Degree).

And, wait. There is better news. Pitts wants to be a special education teacher and pursue her passion for working with students who are misunderstood. She says when she sees students acting out she can relate, and she never blames them.

She says “That child’s wings were not broken by themselves. Something broke them.”

Fly on, Ms. Pitts!

Chris Stewart is the Chief Executive Officer of Education Post, a media project of the Results in Education Foundation. He is a lifelong activist and 20-year supporter of nonprofit and education-related causes. Stewart has served as the director of outreach and external affairs for Education Post, the executive director of the African American Leadership Forum (AALF), and an elected member of the Minneapolis Public Schools Board of Education.


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