Source: Daily Breeze
It’s never too late to receive an education, and one Cal State Dominguez Hills graduate set out to prove that.
During the first day of the school’s commencement ceremonies earlier this week, Maria Manning, a double major in liberal studies and Spanish public services, was among the students from the 2020 and 2021 classes to receive their diplomas at Dignity Health Sports Park. Manning did so at 88 years old – making her one of the oldest students in the Cal State University System to graduate with a double major.
But her road to success faced many setbacks along the way.
Manning, originally from the Cape Verde islands in West Africa, immigrated to America with her family when she was 31.
Manning had wanted to achieve her education in her home country, her daughter, Christine Manning, said.
But after marrying her husband, John Manning, and having a daughter, her education was put on the backburner.
“I wanted to earn my education,” Manning said. “But I had to look after my family.”
And so she did, raising her daughter and helping her through her own schooling.
Then, in the early 1990s, Manning enrolled in courses at the Compton Adult School and eventually transferred to Compton College and then to CSUDH. She also worked in many local schools in the Compton and Long Beach areas. But her husband then got sick and she had her own health problems that landed her in the hospital.
Her college career was paused again.
Manning had dropped all of her courses at CSUDH, having become discouraged by the setbacks. Her hiatus lasted around a dozen years.
Then, she got back to work.
“I didn’t let that stop me,” she said of her and her husband’s health issues. “My work wasn’t going to go down the drain.”
And now, she’s made her family proud – particularly her daughter.
“It’s the most beautiful thing,” Christine Manning said. “I can’t even put into words how proud I am of her.”
Her daughter, though, wasn’t alone in her enthusiasm.
During her time at CSUDH, Manning became a popular figure among her peers – many of whom were much younger – and even faculty.
“Everyone was so kind to me,” Manning said. “They were so helpful and encouraging to me.”
Employees around the campus’ food court would sometimes pay for her meals. And faculty members helped her with her studies, recognizing a student that persevered despite the setbacks she faced.
“After the ceremony, people were running up to her like, ‘Remember me?’” Christine Manning said. “She always talked about the names of friends she had made on campus.”
Manning was a constant in her classes – never wanting to be absent. Not if it rained. Not if Manning’s daughter couldn’t drive her – she’d take a cab or bus instead.
Not even when she had to start using a walker to get around.
“You can’t hold an umbrella when you’re pushing a walker,” Christine Manning said. “So I had to buy her a poncho for when it rained.”
And now Manning has a bachelor’s degree – at last.
Yet, she still has other plans for the future. Another lifelong dream she now wants to accomplish is learning to play an instrument. She has not decided which one yet, but, Manning said, she has always been interested in learning to play the piano, or even the organ.
“She is proof that with a sound mind and determination, anything is possible despite age,” Christine said Manning said. “I’m so proud to be her daughter.”