Grandmother Hopes to Inspire Others After Earning Doctorate's Degree

The grandmother already has three other degrees, including two master's degrees

Berenice Onofre Vasquez arrived in the United States in her early 20s, not knowing much English but determined to earn a college degree.

On Monday, at 70 years old, she did just that, graduating with a doctorate in education from Cal State Los Angeles and adding to her tally of college degrees.

"I always hid my age. I didn't tell anyone," Vasquez said. "People would say, 'When did you graduate high school? When did you come to this country?' trying to figure out my age."

The secret is out now that Vasquez has become the oldest person to graduate from a California State University campus this year.

The accomplishment is exciting for the grandmother, who grew up on a farm in Peru but was determined to pursue higher education when she arrived in the U.S.

Vasquez already has a bachelor's degree in nursing and two master's degrees, but her desire to pursue a doctorate was twofold: she wanted to teach at a university, and she also wanted to create change.

"If I have a doctorate, my words would have more weight," she said. "I would have more respect and I can do more."

Vasquez says she wants to empower Latino parents so that they can better advocate for their children's education, which might lead to more Latino professionals.

She has already inspired her two sons, who attend Harvard and Cal State Northridge, and Vasquez hopes other young Latinos can follow her example.

"To the youth: 'Sí se puede.' You can do it," she said.

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