NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – A 68-year-old grandmother in Manhattan walked across the stage this week to get her college diploma.
It also came with another prestigious title – one she never dreamed would come true, reports CBS2’s Valerie Castro.
“First time that I’m wearing a gown that is not for going to the doctor,” said Dorotea Levy de Szekely, a wife, mother and grandmother.
On Friday she added a new title.
“For those of you wondering who I am, the answer is no – I’m not a member of the faculty,” she told a crowd of graduates. “I’m a graduating college student just like you.”
She’s not just a graduate with an associate’s degree in liberal arts, but co-valedictorian of her graduating class from the Borough of Manhattan Community College.
“I’m deeply honored to stand before you BMCC class of 2019,” said Levy de Szekely.
The honor, she says, was unexpected.
“My first thought was that there are so many people more deserving than I am and that I say from the bottom of my heart,” she said.
Even going to college seemed to be just a dream, one dashed early on by a discouraging school teacher in her native Argentina.
“Where a teacher believed I wouldn’t even be able to graduate high school, I was 6-years-old and I guess I took it quite personally,” she said.
“I suffered a lot, my self-esteem suffered, it took 50 years and the encouragement from my family to get to where I am today,” said Levy de Szekely.
Two years ago, after enrolling in a few courses, her daughter who has a Master’s degree in art, pushed her to do more.
She studied day and night at the Upper East Side home she shares with her family.
“Over the weekend, rain, snow or sunlight, I sat there, my grandchildren said ‘go out don’t be such a nerd,’ but I was,” she said.
Sometimes she needed extra help.
“I sit on the couch and do my homework and I ask my grandson is this correct English and he will say yes or no,” she said.
The hard work paid off.
“Getting my degree is a 50 year old dream, finally coming true,” she told her graduating class.
In turn she’s learned new lessons to pass along.
“Don’t let age be your cage is what I say,” she said. “It is never too late to chase your dreams.”
Dorotea says the next dream she’ll chase is a Bachelor’s degree at Hunter College.