SILVER SPRING, Md. — Two Maryland sisters in their sixties are proving that it's never too late to pursue your educational dreams.
Anita Holmes Johnson and Vanessa Nichols-Holmes enrolled at the University of Maryland Global Campus in August 2019, both determined to get a master’s degree. Vanessa had moved closer to work and found herself with extra time, once she reduced her commute. Anita was looking to fill her time after her daughters left for college.
"My daughters are grown and out of the house, and I was sitting around wondering what I should do now," Anita said.
In their younger years, the sisters took different professional paths. Anita, being a numbers person, earned a bachelor’s degree in computer science from Spelman College and became a program manager. Vanessa served in the Air force and was stationed in England, putting her studies aside for a few years. She earned her bachelor’s degree in criminal justice from UMGC in 2012.
But when they enrolled at UMGC, their paths connected once again; the sisters even sat together in one of their classes. Sadly, their commencement was canceled because of COVID-19, but the women were not discouraged from celebrating. They took their cap and gowns to the Xfinity Center and walked up the steps as Anita’s daughter played “Pomp and Circumstance” on her phone.
Anita, the youngest of her four siblings, was the first in her family to go to college.
“My mother wanted to go but didn’t have the opportunity”, Anita said, adding that their parents always supported them in achieving education while not creating a competitive environment amongst the siblings.
Vanessa added that she's sure their parents would be proud of their daughters for experiencing a milestone together.
"When I dropped out and went to the military, it weighed on me for years that I promised my mother that I would get my degree," Vanessa said. "That’s what I thought when I walked across that stage."