Shaunda Shaw & Shineil Taylor
Brianna Ebony Simpson
Ruth Mitchell arrived at Columbia University in New York City to study literature. Instead, she answered the call of Broadway and became a dancer in productions such as “Annie Get Your Gun,” and “Bloomer Girl.” Her dance career also took her to Paris, France.
It’s 49 years later and Mitchell, who left Broadway to open a dance studio in Atlanta, has finally gotten her chance to earn a degree. Mitchell, now in her 80s, is a participant in the Georgia Perimeter College Prime Timers program, which allows senior citizens to earn a degree for free.
When Mitchell was younger, she thought there would be plenty of time to go to college, but knew she could only dance while she was young.
“I always felt like something was missing, that I was not as smart as I would like to be,” Mitchell says. “Some of my friends are very impressed that I’m going to college, but some think I’m crazy. I think a lot of people over 60 don’t realize they can go to school at GPC without paying. All we have to do is buy our books, and that is a wonderful thing.”
Mitchell sees advantages to going to college at this age. She can spend more time studying and isn’t distracted by people texting her, late-night parties, or a boyfriend. “I know that if I study more I’ll be on an equal footing with the young students,” she says.
Mitchell’s study habits have resulted in a 3.5 GPA, Honors classes, and being inducted into the Phi Theta Kappa National Honor Society. She credits the tremendous encouragement and help she has received from GPC faculty and administrators for her academic success.
Mitchell has great respect for GPC’s young students. “Most of the students here are going to college and working to pay for their tuition,” she says. Many work at night, sleep a little, and still get to school on time.”
GPC’s Prime Timers program was started by the Board of Regents of the University System of Georgia to provide a free education to residents over the age of 62 at any state school. GPC is one of few institutions that actively recruit seniors for the program.
Mitchell hopes to earn an associates degree in liberal arts. “I’m going for it, even if I am the oldest graduate that day,” she says.