Grandmother, 65, ‘overwhelmed’ to be named high school valedictorian


Not only did Twyanna Williams, 65, graduate high school this week, she was also the valedictorian of her class at Philadelphia’s South Philadelphia High School. Williams was among the students who got their degrees through the city’s Educational Options Program that enables adults to earn their high school diploma.

She says she was stunned when she learned of the honor.

“Oh, my goodness, I was overwhelmed,” she told TODAY. “I was so ecstatic and excited and couldn’t believe that I did that. I made it that far? I was really excited. It was exciting for me and I felt important. I felt special.”

Williams says she would love to be an example of what anyone can accomplish.

“I hope I inspire people that are my age and older that’s dropped out of school to go back,” she said. “It’s not that bad.”

The grandmother of four, who is now retired, dropped out of school when she was 15 to get a job in order to help her mother pay her bills after she got divorced from Williams’ father.

She went on to have two kids of her own, but remained focused on completing her education.

“That was always in the back of my head, to get my diploma,” she said.

In early 2020, Williams returned to school through the EOP, saying it “was the right time” for her to do so. Like millions of other students, she wound up going to school online during the pandemic and actually found it to be an enjoyable experience.

“It was good timing for me because you couldn’t go out, couldn’t go anywhere,” she said.

“I was like, ‘This a good chance to pass the time away.’ I’m retired. I’m 65, I’m not working anymore. I’m on a fixed income. So I was like, let me go back to school, this is my time to go back to school, get my diploma.”

The school provided her with a computer, and she made the most of it.

“I didn’t miss any days. I was there every day. I was set up every day in front of that computer,” she said.

Williams, who worked in fast-food restaurants, factories, hotels and hospitals for 40 years before retiring, also says there is always time to go back to school, no matter who you are.

“I would like for the whole world to know that it’s never too late to go back to school, no matter what age you drop out,” she said. “It’s never too late. It is important. Education is very important.”