During her lifetime, 98-year-old Agua Dulce resident Doreetha Daniels has seen the United States overcome the Great Depression, the fall of Nazi Germany, the assassination of President John F. Kennedy and the collapse of the Berlin Wall.
But with all the drama the past has offered her, Daniels has never been presented with a challenge quite like the one she’s taking on in the year 2014 — passing a college statistics class.
“I’m having a hard time with it because it’s been 63 years since I’ve taken algebra even,” says Daniels, a 1934 high school graduate originally from a rural Nebraska town. “But I’ve still learned a lot of new things, including basics like comparing costs and prices. It’s a whole new world.”
With a surrounding community of students typically ranging in age from 18 to 24-years-old, Daniels is without question an outlier.
Seemingly thoughtless tasks such as driving to school and scaling the Canyon Country campus’ many stairways take considerably more effort to coordinate for Daniels than the average young adult.
Up until 2013, Daniels was still driving herself around Santa Clarita, but was forced to give up her license following a minor health scare. She’s now escorted to campus by one of her sons, who is retired.
In the classroom, predictable challenges have arisen.
“Of course the age is going to be a factor,” said COC instructor Claudia Reyes. “She has displayed difficulty hearing and keeping up with our pace at times. Keep in mind though that some students have told me she has served as an inspiration for them as a motivator.”
Daniels is attempting to nullify her physical disadvantages in the classroom through meticulous preparation. Every Tuesday and Thursday morning the 98-year-old can be found studying her homework at the campus’ Tutoring Learning Center (TLC).
Daniels says that her one-on-one time with TLC tutors has helped her greatly.
Unfortunately, she’s pretty much on the outside looking in when it comes to mastering the technological aspects of both the tutoring facilities and online homework components.
“I enjoy getting emails, even if I don’t answer back,” said Daniels, smiling. “Even the advertisements on the side are interesting. But as far as surfing the internet goes, I don’t know how.”
It’s hard to blame Daniels for her lack of computer savvy when putting her life into perspective — the COC student was 38-years-old when Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates was born in 1955.
Currently, the 98-year-old’s Statistics 075 class is embarking on concepts such as curvilinear graphs and probability. As part of her required classwork, Daniels will participate in a group project.
Daniels will not have to complete a difficult midterm exam to pass her course, and according to Reyes remains, “one of the most dedicated and hard working students in the class.
Regardless of her outcome this semester, Doreetha Daniels’ quest to receive a degree in her old age is an inspiring testament to the value that past generations have placed on education. Books may cost between $100-400 a semester, but the ambition it takes for a 98-year-old woman to return to school after six decades cannot be tangibly defined.
The age 98 may just be the new 21.