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Student, 75, pursues dreams

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Tennille Wright
Staff Writer

Awareness, self esteem and enlightenment are words that University of La Verne senior Jeanette Williams lives by.

These are powerful words for a student, but Williams is not your average college student. She is a 75-year-old, majoring in religion.

“I always wanted a Ph.D. or master’s,” Williams said.

The licensed psychiatric technician decided to pursue her longtime goal of obtaining her bachelors degree.

“Louisiana State University was segregated so I couldn’t go,” Williams said.

With the appetite for life of a 20-year-old, her birth certificate is the only proof of her age.

Williams was born in Shreveport, La., and came to California in 1957 at the age of 21.

Divorced in the ’70s, Williams became a single mother and through hard work, dedication and faith raised four successful sons.

“Don’t let the world tell your children who they are, you tell them,” Williams said.

Her mother died when she was 10, and she eventually moved in with her father and stepmother.

“I grew up in a house that couldn’t answer all my questions but they gave me space to explore,” Williams said.

Williams was a sharecropper for four years in her teens and eventually decided that it was not the life she wanted.

When decided that she was done with sharecropping, Williams attempted to convince everyone by doing the unspeakable and chopping down the cotton plant.

Williams decided on a career in mental health after her stepmother was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia.

“I wanted to know how the brain works,” Williams said.

Williams has made a career of helping the people referred to as outcasts, indigents and depraved by implementing programs she designed to help them maximize their potential and achieve their goals.

“This thing that lives in me doesn’t belong to me so I give it back,” Williams added.

She is able to connect with the people she helps in a way that her colleagues have never understood.

“I don’t judge, criticize or condemn,” Williams said.

Williams continues to advocate for the peoples’ well being with her energetic demeanor.

She prides herself on standing firm on her beliefs and not compromising who she is.

“I rock boats and turn ships upside down,” Williams said.

She has earned many accolades over the years and is no rush to stop anytime soon, stating that she has a least 20 more years to give.

“The College of Arts and Sciences is proud to have a student like this,” said Jonathan Reed, interim dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. “She embodies the university value of life-long learning.”

“So many things in life have made me who I am,” Williams said.

Her view on life and her youthful approach demonstrates that age is just a number and that no matter where you come from, it is you who writes the pages of your story.

Tennille Wright can be reached at

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