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California woman earns college diploma at age 94
Hazel Soares, 94, right, gets ready before the start of commencement exercises 
at Mills College, as her son Matthew Soares, 59, looks on in Oakland, 
California, on Saturday. Hazel received a degree of Bachelor of Arts in Art 
History. (AP)


Published: May 16, 2010 04:08 Updated: May 16, 2010 04:23 

OAKLAND, California: It's never too late to earn your college degree. Just ask 
94-year-old Hazel Soares.

The woman was one of about 500 students to pick up diplomas Saturday during a 
commencement ceremony at Mills College, an all-women's school in Oakland.

"It's taken me quite a long time because I've had a busy life," said Soares. 
"I'm finally achieving it, and it makes me feel really good." Soares, who has 
six children and more than 40 grandchildren and great-grandchildren, is 
believed to be the world's second oldest person to graduate from college.

Nola Ochs of Kansas became the oldest when she graduated from Fort Hays State 
University three years ago at age 95, according to the Guinness Book of World 
Records. Ochs, now 98, topped that academic feat Saturday, when she received 
her master's degree in liberal studies from Fort Hays.

Born in Richmond, California in 1915, Soares had wanted to attend college right 
after she graduated from Roosevelt High School in Oakland in 1932, but that was 
during the Great Depression.

"Unless you had some help, it would have been impossible to go to college," 
Soares said. "However I never lost the desire to go." Soares married twice, 
raised six kids and worked as a nurse and event organizer before she retired 
and decided to return to pursue her dream of obtaining a college education.

"We are really amazed and very proud of my mom," said Regina Hungerford, 
Soares' youngest child. "The biggest thing that we can all learn is that we're 
never too old." At Saturday's commencement, she was congratulated by House 
Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who delivered the keynote speech, and was cheered by her 

"She's really an incredible inspiration," said Sandeep Brar, who also graduated 

Soares doesn't plan to relax now that she finally has her degree. The art 
history major hopes to work as a docent at a San Francisco Bay area museum.

Through her experience, she hopes others realize that it's never too late to 
get a college education.

"There's no reason why you could not go back," Soares said. "Some people do 
give up the idea or postpone the idea. It's too late. It's too much work. They 
may not realize that once you try it it's exciting to go to school."

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