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It’s Never Too Late to Start Over

Just ask Gladys. At 61, she walked across the graduation stage to receive her well-earned high school diploma. 

Gladys resumes her education journey after a nearly four-decade hiatus. In 1979, she had a son and made the tough decision to drop out of school to raise him. 

"Back then, it was either go to school or go to work to pay the bills," she said.

Gladys held jobs with the City's Out of School Time (OST) educational afterschool programs – programs that support thousands of K-8 students and families throughout the city. 

Her baby boy always remained her priority, but the role of caretaker, which comes naturally to Gladys, provided fulfillment in her work.

"I believe that's my calling ... to help kids," she said. 

Instilling a passion for life-long learning is something Gladys, in turn, has given to herself. 

"It's always been a dream to finally get my degree, but when you are a certain age, you stop believing in yourself ... your dreams can go away," she said. "Some days I thought about giving up, but you can't run from your problems. And I try to face everything head-on."


“it's always been a dream to finally get my degree.”


Making the leap back to the classroom was tough, but she mapped out a plan to get herself reenrolled. It was a student who told Gladys they believed in her.

Her tenacity took her on many trips to the library. She obtained decades-old school transcripts. And she dialed United Way's 211 Hotline. A Network Navigator answered the call – they are specialists who provide one-on-one support to help eligible people access and use technology. 

Through the PHLConnectED partnership of United Way, Comcast, and the city, Gladys received a laptop and high-speed internet service, pairing her with the tools needed to earn 14 remaining credits. 

These smaller, more-attainable steps added up to getting Gladys ready for her first day back to school at One Bright Ray Community High School. 

As for life after graduation, Gladys intends to stay in childcare.

"These kids have given me so much joy ... and they've motivated me," she added. "Find out what will bring you happiness and do it ... stick to that."

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